Arthur Keith
Sir Arthur Keith was a Scottish
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 anatomist and anthropologist, who became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Royal College of Surgeons of England
The Royal College of Surgeons of England is an independent professional body and registered charity committed to promoting and advancing the highest standards of surgical care for patients, regulating surgery, including dentistry, in England and Wales...

 and Hunterian Professor and conservator of the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London (not to be confused with the Hunterian Museum Glasgow Scotland; the two were founded by brothers). A leading figure in the study of human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

s, he became President of the Royal Anthropological Institute. The latter role stimulated his interest in the subject of human evolution, leading to the publication of his book A New Theory of Human Evolution, in which he supported the idea of group selection
Group selection
In evolutionary biology, group selection refers to the idea that alleles can become fixed or spread in a population because of the benefits they bestow on groups, regardless of the alleles' effect on the fitness of individuals within that group....


Where others had postulated that physical separation could provide a barrier to interbreeding, allowing groups to evolve along different lines, Keith introduced the idea of cultural differences as providing a mental barrier, emphasising territorial behaviour, and the concept of the 'in-group' and 'out-group'. Man had evolved, he claimed, through his tendency to live in small competing communities, a tendency which was at root determined by racial differences in his 'genetic substrate'. Writing just after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 he particularly emphasised the racial origins of anti-Semitism
Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

, and in 'A New Theory of Evolution' he devoted a chapter to the topics of anti-Semitism and Zionism in which he argued that Jews live by a 'dual code'. He is also famous for discovering the Sinoatrial node
Sinoatrial node
The sinoatrial node is the impulse-generating tissue located in the right atrium of the heart, and thus the generator of normal sinus rhythm. It is a group of cells positioned on the wall of the right atrium, near the entrance of the superior vena cava...

 in 1907.


Born in Persley, Aberdeenshire, the son of a farmer, he obtained a Bachelor of Medicine at the University of Aberdeen
University of Aberdeen
The University of Aberdeen, an ancient university founded in 1495, in Aberdeen, Scotland, is a British university. It is the third oldest university in Scotland, and the fifth oldest in the United Kingdom and wider English-speaking world...

 in 1888. He travelled to Siam on a gold mining trip in 1889 where he gathered plants for Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, usually referred to as Kew Gardens, is 121 hectares of gardens and botanical glasshouses between Richmond and Kew in southwest London, England. "The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" and the brand name "Kew" are also used as umbrella terms for the institution that runs...

 in London in his capacity as a plant collector assistant for the Botanical Survey of the Malay Peninsula.

On returning to Britain
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 in 1892, Keith studied anatomy
Anatomy is a branch of biology and medicine that is the consideration of the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy , and plant anatomy...

 at University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

 and at the University of Aberdeen. It was at Aberdeen where Keith won the first Struthers
John Struthers (anatomist)
Sir John Struthers, LRCSE, MD, LLD, FRCSE, FRSE was Professor of Anatomy at the University of Aberdeen....

 Prize in 1893 for his demonstration of ligaments in humans and other apes. In 1894, he was made a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Royal College of Surgeons of England
The Royal College of Surgeons of England is an independent professional body and registered charity committed to promoting and advancing the highest standards of surgical care for patients, regulating surgery, including dentistry, in England and Wales...

. In 1908, as he says in 'A New Theory of Evolution', he was 'put in charge of the vast treasury of things housed in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons', which brought about a shift in his interest from anatomy to the pursuit of 'the machinery of human evolution'.

He studied primate skulls, and in 1897 he published An Introduction to the Study of Anthropoid Apes. Other works include Human Embryology and Morphology (1902), Ancient Types of Man (1911), The Antiquity of Man (1915), Concerning Man's Origins (1927), and A New Theory of Human Evolution, (1948).

Keith was editor of the Journal of Anatomy between 1915 and 1936.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1913. He was knighted in 1921, and he published New Discoveries in 1931. In 1932, he helped found a research institute in Downe
Downe is a village in the London Borough of Bromley in London, UK.Downe is south west of Orpington and south east of Charing Cross. Downe lies in a wooded valley, and much of the centre of the village is unchanged; the former village school now acts as the village hall.-Darwin:Charles Darwin...

, Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, where he worked until his death.

European hypothesis

British anthropologists Arthur Keith and Grafton Elliot Smith
Grafton Elliot Smith
Sir Grafton Elliot Smith, FRS FRCP was an Australian anatomist and a proponent of the hyperdiffusionist view of prehistory.-Professional career:Smith was born in Grafton, New South Wales...

 were both fixed on European origin of humankind and were in opposition to models of Asia and African origin.

In 1925 Raymond Dart
Raymond Dart
Raymond Arthur Dart was an Australian anatomist and anthropologist, best known for his involvement in the 1924 discovery of the first fossil ever found of Australopithecus africanus, an extinct hominid closely related to humans, at Taung in the North of South Africa in the province...

 announced the discovery of Australopithecus africanus
Australopithecus africanus
Australopithecus africanus was an early hominid, an australopithecine, who lived between 2–3 million years ago in the Pliocene. In common with the older Australopithecus afarensis, A. africanus was slenderly built, or gracile, and was thought to have been a direct ancestor of modern humans. Fossil...

 which he claimed was evidence for an early human ancestor in Africa, however the British anthropologists of the time, who firmly believed in the European hypothesis did not accept finds outside of their own soil, Arthur Keith for example described “Darts child” as a juvenile ape
Apes are Old World anthropoid mammals, more specifically a clade of tailless catarrhine primates, belonging to the biological superfamily Hominoidea. The apes are native to Africa and South-east Asia, although in relatively recent times humans have spread all over the world...

 and nothing to do with human ancestry.

Piltdown Man hoax

Keith was a strong proponent of the Piltdown Man
Piltdown Man
The Piltdown Man was a hoax in which bone fragments were presented as the fossilised remains of a previously unknown early human. These fragments consisted of parts of a skull and jawbone, said to have been collected in 1912 from a gravel pit at Piltdown, East Sussex, England...

. Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery, written by Frank Spencer after completing the research of Ian Langham (an Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n historian of science who suspected Keith, and died in 1984), explored the link between Keith and Dawson and suggested it was Keith who prepared the fake specimens for Dawson to plant. Phillip Tobias details the history of the investigation of the hoax, dismissing other theories, and listing inconsistencies in Keith's statements and actions. More recent evidence points to Martin Hinton, but the case remains open.

Concerning Man's Origins

Concerning Man's Origins, a book based on his Presidential Address at the British Association in 1927, contains a chapter entitled 'Capital as a Factor in Evolution' in which he proposes an interesting explanation for Britain's leading role in the development of Industrial Society. Essentially he argues that the cold unwelcoming climate of Britain selected those who came here for a special ability to store up food and supplies for the winter - those who didn't died out. This 'capitalism' provided a secure way of life with time to think and experiment, for a population that had been selected for inventiveness and resourcefulness. Out of this special population sprang the Industrial Revolution, centred on the colder Northern counties of England like Lancashire and Yorkshire where the high-tech developments of the time took place in spinning and weaving. This is a rare book today, which does not appear to be available as a reprint.

A New Theory of Human Evolution (1948)

In A New Theory of Human Evolution, Keith puts forward his ideas on the co-evolution of Human beings, Races, and Cultures, covering topics such as Patriotism, Resentment and Revenge, Morality, Leadership, Nationalism, and Race. His particular theory emphasises the ideas of 'In-group versus Out-group', and the 'Amity-Enmity Complex'. Often quoted, but very hard to get, this book covers, in one concise and very readable work, a whole lot of topics that are extremely relevant today, since discussion of such ideas was revived with E O Wilson's publication of 'Sociobiology' and now thrives under the title of 'Evolutionary Psychology'.

One chapter, entitled The Jews as a Nation and as a Race, tackles what is often referred to as 'the Jewish Question', postulating that the Jews are a special case of a race that has evolved to live as the 'out-group' amongst other races, developing a special culture that enables it to survive by means of strong cultural traditions that bind the 'in-group' with unusual loyalty and defensiveness. Such claims are very controversial today.

Physical copies of the book are difficult to obtain as it would seem that original copies exist only in small numbers, and that modern reprints do not exist. However, an online reprint of the book is available (see link below).

Prediction of the future

In September 1931, Keith and other prominent individuals of the time were invited by The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

to make a prediction concerning the world in eighty years time in the future, in 2011, to celebrate the paper's eightieth anniversary since its establishment in 1851. Keith's prediction warned against overspecialization in medicine:
Eighty years ago medicine was divided among three orders of specialists – physicians, surgeons, and midwives. Now there are more than fifty distinct special branches for the treatment of human ailments. It is this aspect of life – its ever growing specialization – which frightens me. Applying this law to The New York Times, I tremble when I think what its readers will find on their doorsteps every Sunday morning.


Spurious Quotation

This quote is often utilized in Creationist publications and websites in an attempt to demonstrate that Sir Arthur Keith, and thus by extension promoters of evolution in general, simply dismiss creationist viewpoints outright due to a presumed antitheistic bias. However, in attempting to research this statement, one finds that it usually appears without primary source documentation. In those instances where seemingly original documentation is provided, it is stated to be a Forward for a centennial edition or “100th edition” of Origin of Species. However, several facts show that the attribution of these words to Arthur Keith is erroneous.

Keith passed away in 1955 some four years before the 100th anniversary of Darwin’s work so that he was clearly not available to write an introduction for the centennial edition (this was actually done by William Robin Thompson). Furthermore, while Keith did write an introduction to earlier printings of Origin of Species, in use from 1928 to 1958, the words given above do not appear in that introduction. Finally, the last “edition” of Origin of Species is the sixth edition published 1879. It is for this reason that all later publications of Origin of Species are actually reprints of this or earlier editions so that there is simply no “100th edition” of Darwin’s work. In light of the fact that the documentation provided by Creationist publications is specious, one is still left with trying to explain the source of this citation. It is enough to say, however, that since this “quote” lacks valid documentation, it should not be regarded as one that originates with Arthur Keith himself until it can be properly documented.

External links

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