Breasted was in the forefront of the generation of archeologist-historians who broadened the idea of Western Civilization to include the entire Near East in Europe's cultural roots. Breasted coined the term Fertile Crescent to describe the archaeologically important area from Palestine to southern Iraq (inclusive).
He became an instructor at the University of Chicago in 1894. Five years later UC agreed to let him accept the Prussian Academy's invitation to work on their Egyptian dictionary project. Therefore, from 1899 to 1908 he devoted himself to field work which established his reputation. He began to publish numerous articles and monograms, as well as his History of Egypt from the Earliest Times Down to the Persian Conquest in 1905. At that time he was promoted to Professor of Egyptology and Oriental History for UC (the first such chair in the United States).
In 1901, he was appointed director of the Haskell Oriental Museum, forerunner of the Oriental Institute, which had opened at the University of Chicago in 1896. Though the Haskell Oriental Museum contained works of art from both the Near East and the Far East, Breasted's principal interest was in Egypt; he began to work on a compilation of all the extant hieroglyphic inscriptions, which was published in 1906 as Ancient Records of Egypt, which remains an important collection of translated texts; as Peter A. Piccione wrote in the preface to its 2001 reprint, it "still contains certain texts and inscriptions that have not been retranslated since that time."
In 1903 he successfully secured fifty thousand dollars from the Rockefeller Foundation to found the Oriental Exploration Fund so again in 1919 he turned to John D. Rockefeller to obtain funding for the Oriental Institute of Chicago, under whose auspices Breasted headed the University’s first archaeological survey of Egypt. In 1923 he was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He died in 1935 from pneumonia, while returning from a trip to Egypt. He is buried in Greenwood cemetery, Rockford, Illinois. His grave site is marked with a large marble obelisk, which was a gift from the Egyptian government. He had a personal residence built near the University of Chicago campus which now still stands as the fraternity house for Phi Gamma Delta.
"If one were asked to name a scholar who, above all others, stimulated the development of ancient historical studies in the United States during the earlier part of the twentieth century, that honor would have to fall to the colossal figure of James Henry Breasted." Dictionary of Literary Biography by William J. Murnane
 Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2002. Document Number H1000011705 http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC
Pioneer to the past; the story of James Henry Breasted, archaeologist. (reprint, 1943).(Brief article)(Book review)
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Ou's Kyle Harper Receives the American Historical Association's James Henry Breasted Prize for Best Book in English in a Field of Pre-Modern History
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