Over at Language Log, Arnold Zwicky and Sally Thomason have written about the recent passing of Murray Emeneau, a president of the Linguistic Society of America in 1949. Prof. Zwicky's post is a particularly poignant reflection on his long and illustrious history in the field (though he's too modest to say so himself), and it's quite something to see how the roster of LSA presidents tracks his professional evolution. Alas, in reading their obituaries for Prof. Emeneau, as well as Languagehat's comment that "he was a giant in the field", your host had to acknowledge that despite 4 years of graduate schooling at two institutions, he had no idea who Murray Emeneau was.
This is not to say that SC could rattle off a list of publications and ideas put forth by everyone on the aforelinked roster, but between reading The Linguistics Wars and Pieter Seuren's excellent Western Linguistics: An Historical Introduction, your host had never come across his name in the history books, either. Consulting the Berkeley obituary, one finds that "Prof. Emeneau is also generally seen as having initiated the modern field of areal linguistics". So off to my bookshelf to consult William Croft's Typology and Universals; alas, no mention there, either, despite Sally Thomason's averral that his original publication on the subject is "a ground-breaking article, and...not outdated even now".
This all leaves SC rather disturbed. The aforementioned history books are disposed towards syntax (in the case of The Linguistics Wars, necessarily so, although MIT phonology gets substantial treatment in there as well), and their coverage of early linguists focuses -- at least so far as the twentieth century is concerned -- on those who bore most directly on Chomsky and his program (Boas, Sapir, Bloomfield). Even though they both eschew the English uber alles approach to language research, it's surprising to see someone who covered so many languages within the large Dravidian family not even rating a mention. There are all sorts of interesting things about Dravidian languages that make trouble for English-derived theories -- for example, Kannada has nine prefixes, and they mean "fore, back, down, two, big, intense, clear, red, sweet", which wreaks havoc on syntactic and morphological theories that try to treat prefixes as functional projections.* SC didn't learn that from Prof. Emeneau, but he has to wonder what else he might have gotten out of him instead. The history of linguistics is not only the history of syntax, and especially not only the history of research on English, but too often, that's what it gets reduced to, and we're all poorer for it.
*Aronoff, Mark, and S.N. Sridhar. 1988. "Prefixation in Kannada". In Michael Hammond and Michael Noonan (eds.), Theoretical Morphology: Approaches in Modern Linguistics, 179-192. San Diego: Academic Press.