Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/325

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THE STUDY OF MAN.

the inhabitants of different districts, which, would enable the anthropologist to complete in a systematic manner the work which Dr. Beddoe had so well begun. I would commend this work to the consideration of the provincial university colleges, especially those in outlying districts.

Of all the parts of the human frame, the skull is that upon which anthropologists have in the past expended the most of their time and thought. We have now, in Great Britain alone, at least four collections of skulls, each of which includes more than a thousand specimens, and in the other great national and university museums of Europe there are large collections available for study and comparison.

Despite all the labor that has been bestowed on the subject, craniometric literature is at present as unsatisfactory as it is dull. Hitherto observations have been concentrated on cranial measurements as methods for the discrimination of the skulls of different races. Scores of lines, arcs, chords, and indexes have been devised for this purpose, and the diagnosis of skulls has been attempted by a process as mechanical as that whereby we identify certain issues of postage-stamps by counting the nicks in the margin. But there is underlying all these no unifying hypothesis; so that when we in our sesquipedalian jargon describe an Australian skull as microcephalic, phænozygous, tapeino-dolichocephalic, prognathic, platyrhine, hypselopalatine, leptostaphyline, dolichuranic, chamæprosopic, and microseme, we are no nearer to the formulation of any philosophic concept of the general principles which have led to the assumption of these characters by the cranium in question, and we are forced to echo the apostrophe of Von Torök, "Vanity, thy name is Craniology."

It was perhaps needful in the early days of the subject that it should pass through the merely descriptive stage; but the time has come when we should seek for something better, when we should regard the skull not as a whole complete in itself, nor as a crystalline geometrical solid, nor as an invariable structure, but as a marvelously plastic part of the human frame, whose form depends on the co-operation of influences, the respective shares of which in molding the head are capable of qualitative if not of quantitative analysis. Could measurements be devised which would indicate the nature and amounts of these several influences, then, indeed, would craniometry pass from its present empirical condition, and become a genuine scientific method. We are yet far from the prospect of such an ideal system, and all practical men will realize the immense, but not insuperable, difficulties in the way of its formulation.

In illustration of the profound complexity of the problem which the craniologist has to face, I would ask your indulgence