- An "American Humboldt"? Memorializing Philadelphia Physician and Race Supremacist Samuel George Morton
- Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 87, Number 2, Spring 2020
- pp. 279-312
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Samuel George Morton was a nineteenth-century anatomy professor and paleontologist who gained fame for the extensive collection of human skulls he collected and curated at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. An early scholar of physical anthropology in America, Morton promoted race supremacy, asserting that Germanic Europeans had the largest brains and highest intelligence of all human populations. When he died, four Philadelphia physicians eulogized him. Their writings have served as the foundation for most modern interpretations of Morton. An examination of rarely cited nineteenth-century documents indicates that his eulogists exaggerated the importance and reception of Morton's anthropological research and omitted or misrepresented details of his personal life. Studies of Morton by anthropologists, philosophers of science, or scholars studying race in America should therefore take a highly skeptical view of the memoirs written by Morton's nineteenth-century colleagues and admirers.