Page:A cyclopedia of American medical biography vol. 2.djvu/222

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MORTON


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MORTON


inducements to this work, not tlie least," as he states in the preface, " was the desire to be enrolled among the expositors of a science that had occupied many of the best years of my life." It was when be began his career as a teacher of anatomy that Morton received the stimulus which led to the work on which his lasting reputation rests.

Morton* states that "having had occasion, in the summer of 1830, to deliver an introductory lecture to a course of anatomy, I chose for my subject 'the different forms of the skull as ex- hibited in the five races of men.' Strange to say I could neither buy nor borrow a cranium of each of these races, and I finished my discourse without showang either the Mongolian or the Malay. For- cibly impressed with this great deficiency in a most important branch of science, I at once resolved to make a collection for myself." Although most of the skulls belonging to the collection were contributed by some hundred friends, the cost of collecting to Morton must have been between S10,000 and 815,000. Agassiz, on visiting Philadelphia soon after his arrival in America, wrote that " Dr. Morton's unique collection of human skulls is also to be found in Philadelphia. Imagine a series of 600 skulls, mostly Indian, of all the tribes who now inhabit or formerly inhabited America. Nothing like it exists else- where. This collection alone is worth a journey to America."

The two most important works by Morton based on his splendid collection of skulls are his "Crania Americana" and his "Crania Egyptica," the first pub- lished in 1839.

He wrote to Gliddon:

" You will observe by the annexed pro- spectus that I am engaged in a work of considerable novelty, and which, as regards the typography and illustrations at least, is designed to be equal to any publication hitherto issued in this coun-

  • Letter to J. R. Bartlett, Esq., "Transac-

tions of the American Ethnological Society," vol. ii, New York, 1848, quoted by Patterson.


try. You may be surprised that I should address you on the subject, but a moment's explanation may suffice to convey my views and wishes. The prefatory chapter will embrace a view of the varieties of the human race, embrac- ing, among other topics, some remarks on the ancient Egyptians. The position I have always assumed is, that the present Copts are not the remains of the ancient Egyptians, and in order more fully to make my comparisons, it is very impor- tant that I should get a few heads of Egyptian mummies from Thebes, etc. I do not care to have them entirely perfect specimens of embalming, but perfect in the bony structure, and with the hair preserved, if possible. It has occurred to me that, as you will reside at Cairo, and with your perfect knowledge of afi'airs in Egypt, you would have it in your power to employ a confidential and well-quahfied person for this trust."

Morton's ethnological studies led him to the conclusion that the human races are of diverse origin. For this he was bitterly assailed by numerous people including several clergymen who claimed that he was denying the authority of the Scriptures bj' conclusions of this charac- ter. Morton's life was made for a time unpleasant by the bitterness of the con- troversy, but his fine character was too well understood by those nearest him for those who attacked him to do him great injury.

In an essay on "Hybridity," published in "Silliman's Journal" for 1847, Morton showed that there are many examples of fertile hybrids known, and that therefore the fertility of offspring from members of different human races cannot be con- sidered an argument against the distinct specificity of these races. Since Darwin's influence has spread abroad the whole subject would now, of course, be taken up from a different standpoint. Agassiz accepted, in the main, Morton's views. According to Marcon, Morton was second only to Cuvier in his influence on Agassiz's mind and scientific opinion.

Of the opponents of Morton the most