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Cobb, William Montague (12 October 1904–20 November 1990), physical anthropologist and anatomist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of William Elmer Cobb, a printer, and Alexzine Montague. Experiencing racial segregation in education, he graduated in 1921 from Dunbar High School, an elite college-preparatory school for African Americans. Cobb attended Amherst College, where he pursued a classical education in arts and sciences, graduating in 1925. After graduation he received a Blodgett Scholarship to study biology at Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory in Massachusetts. There he met Howard University biologist ...

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Fishberg, Maurice (16 August 1872–30 August 1934), physician, anthropologist, and Jewish community worker, was born in Kamenets-Podolski, Russia, the son of Philip Fishberg and Kate Moverman. Raised in a traditional Jewish household, Fishberg was introduced to modern scientific study in a Russian government school before immigrating to the United States in 1890. He attended the Medical College of New York University, where he received his M.D. in 1897. That same year he married Bertha Cantor; they had two children. Fishberg was initially engaged in private practice on New York’s Lower East Side, later securing a post as chief medical examiner for the city’s United Hebrew Charities. There Fishberg treated immigrant patients who relied on the support of the Jewish community and made recommendations to community leaders on how social conditions and medical care for the Jewish poor could be improved. While at the United Hebrew Charities, Fishberg became concerned with the attempts of immigration restrictionists to paint Jewish immigrants as carriers of disease. His early medical scholarship, therefore, mustered scientific data in an attempt to dispel myths concerning “Jewish pathology,” particularly the common accusation that immigrants were responsible for the spread of tuberculosis. Fishberg demonstrated, in fact, that Jews were more immune to tuberculosis than other immigrants, a fact he attributed to their religious customs and previous exposure to urban life in European towns and cities....

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Samuel George Morton. Engraving by T. B. Welch. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B019993).

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Morton, Samuel George (26 January 1799–15 May 1851), physician and physical anthropologist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of George Morton, a merchant, and Jane Cummings. His father died soon after his birth, and his mother moved her family to West Farms, in Westchester County, New York, where Morton attended Quaker schools. On her remarriage in 1812 (to Thomas Rogers, an amateur mineralogist), the family returned to Philadelphia, where Morton continued to attend Quaker schools until 1815, when he was apprenticed to a merchant. His teachers—notably John Gummere of Burlington, New Jersey—and stepfather encouraged his continuing interest in things scientific, and in 1817 (at his mother’s death) Morton began studying medicine privately with Philadelphia physician ...

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Sheldon, William Herbert (17 November 1898–16 September 1977), psychologist and physician, was born in Warwick, Rhode Island, the son of William Herbert Sheldon, a jeweler, and Mary Abby Greene. Little is known about Sheldon’s parents, but the psychologist was very close to his father, an amateur naturalist, hunting guide, and professional breeder as well as a judge of sporting dogs and poultry. William Herbert Sheldon, Sr., who is said to have been a close friend of psychologist and philosopher ...

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Todd, Thomas Wingate (15 January 1885–28 December 1938), anatomist and physical anthropologist, was born in Sheffield, England, the son of the Reverend James Todd, a Methodist minister, and Katherine Wingate. Todd graduated from Owens College of the Victoria University of Manchester in 1907 with the highest honors, receiving the degrees of Ch.B. (bachelor of surgery) and M.B. (bachelor of medicine, corresponding to the American M.D.)....

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Wissler, Clark (18 September 1870–25 August 1947), anthropologist, museologist, and psychologist, was born Clarkson Davis Wissler in Wayne County, Indiana, the son of Benjamin Franklin Wissler, a schoolteacher, and Sylvania Needler. From 1888 to 1893 he taught public school in Wayne County. He entered Indiana University in 1893, graduating in 1897 with a B.A. in psychology. He continued his work in psychology at Indiana, receiving his M.A. in 1899 while also teaching psychology at Ohio State. That year Wissler married Etta Viola Gebbart; they had two children. In 1901 he received his Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University, where he had become well acquainted with ...

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Wyman, Jeffries (11 August 1814–04 September 1874), comparative anatomist, naturalist, and anthropologist, was born in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, the son of Rufus Wyman, a physician, and Ann Morrill. He was named after the Boston physician James Jeffries, preceptor in medicine to Wyman’s father. Wyman’s family moved to Somerville, Massachusetts, when his father, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, was appointed physician of the McLean Asylum for the Insane. Wyman exhibited a childhood interest in dissection and sketching, two skills in which he later excelled....