Ashley Montagu

From Academic Kids

Ashley Montagu (June 28 1905, London, England - November 26 1999, Princeton, New Jersey), was an English anthropologist and humanist who popularized issues such as race and gender and their relation to politics and development.

Montagu was born in London's East End as Israel Ehrenberg. He developed an interest in anatomy very quickly and as a boy was befriended by Arthur Keith. In 1922, at the age of 17, he entered University College London, where he received a diploma in psychology after studying with Karl Pearson and C.E. Spearman and taking anthropology courses with Eliott Grafton Smith and C.G. Seligman. He also studied at the University of Florence, where became one of the first students of Bronislaw Malinowski. He pursued post-graduate work at Columbia University, where he produced a dissertation in 1938 entitled Coming into being among the Australian Aborigines: A study of the procreative beliefs of the native tribes of Australia which was directed by Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict. He taught anatomy at various school in the United States before becoming a professor of anthropology at Rutgers from 1949 to 1955.

In the 1950s Montagu produced a series of works questioning the validity of race as a biological concept, including the UNESCO Statement on Race and his very well-known Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race. He was particularly opposed to the work of Carleton Coon.

He retired from his academic career in 1955 and moved to Princeton, New Jersey to pursue his popular writing and public appearances. He became a well-known guest on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. He directed his numerous published studies on the significant relationship of mother and infant to the general public. The humanizing effects of touch informed the studies of isolation-reared monkeys and adult pathological violence that is the subject of his Time-Life documentary “Rock A Bye Baby” (1970). Later in life he became actively opposed to genital modification and mutilation of children, and in 1996, was named in the Ashley Montagu Resolution to End the Genital Mutilation of Children.

In the final accounting he taught and lectured at Harvard, Princeton (where he chaired the Department of Anthropology), University of California, New York University. He wrote over 60 books.

Books by Montagu

(list not complete)

He is co-author with Floyd Matson of The Human Connection and The Dehumanization of Man. He is the writer and director of the film "One World or None," described as one of the best documentaries ever made.He collaborated with Sir Frederick Treves to research and write The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity. The Ashley Montagu Resolution to End the Genital Mutilation of Children Worldwide was a petition he presented before the World court at The Hague in 1994, which inspired the global reaction to female genital mutilation.


  • "Science has proof without any certainty. Creationists have certainty without any proof."
  • "The natural superiority of women is a biological fact, and a socially acknowledged reality."
  • "The idea is to die young as late as possible."

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