Arthur Keith

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Sir Arthur Keith

Sir Arthur Keith FRS (5 February 1866 – 7 January 1955) was a Scottish anatomist and anthropologist, and a proponent of scientific racism. He was a fellow and later the Hunterian Professor and conservator of the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.


  • Now we proceed to consider the oldest race of great stature that has yet been discovered, one which flourished in the south of France when the last of the cold periods was lifting from Europe. The first examples of this race were discovered in 1868, when a railway was being constructed in the valley of the Vézère, a tributary of the Dordogne. A cutting made in the débris at the foot of the limestone cliffs which flank the valley of the Vézère at Cro-Magnon, brought to light the skeletons of a man, of a woman, and part of the skull of a third individual. Hence this ancient type or race is usually named Cro-Magnon.
  • In all the medical schools of London a notice is posted over the door leading to the dissecting room forbidding strangers to enter. I propose, however, to push the door open and ask the reader to accompany me within, for, if we are to understand the human body; it is essential that we should see the students at work.
    • The Human Body. Williams & Norgate. 1920. p. 9.  (originally published in 1912)
  • We have to face the fact that we are the descendants of apelike ancestors. The truth, at first sight, is often ugly and repulsive to our personal feelings, but when it is the truth, its ultimate effects on us are always salutary. ...
    ... Man's brain does not stand as a thing apart; it is the culmination of an ascending series. There is no part of it and no function manifested by it that cannot be traced to humble beginnings lower in the animal scale. And what we postulate for man's brain we must in all justice apply to that of the ape, the dog, and all other beasts.
    • "Chapter X". Living Philosophies. Simon & Schuster. 1931. p. 149. 
  • From what we know of living anthropoids, we may infer that the chief mental activities of the group will be three in number—namely, those concerning with mating, maternity, and social behaviour. Each group will be attached to a territory and maintain its isolation.
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