John Beddoe

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John Beddoe, M.D., LL.D., F.R.S., F.R.C.P., Foreign Assoc. Anthrop. Soc., Paris; Corr. Member Anthrop. Soc., Berlin; Hon. Member Anthrop. Soc., Brussels and Washington, Soc. Friends of Science, Moscow. By John Gray, B.Sc.

In this year, 1911, Anthropology has lost two of its greatest pioneers. Sir Francis Galton died on January 17th, and now we have to record the death of Dr. John Beddoe on July 19th of the same year.

Beddoe was born at Bewdley in 1826, four years after the birth of Galton. Both in their youth studied medicine, though Beddoe alone adopted medicine as a profession; and both made a scientific tour of Europe, following almost the same route, and stopping in Vienna in passing, to complete their medical studies. Galton was elected president of the Anthropological Institute in 1885 and Huxley lecturer in 1901, Beddoe holding the same offices in 1889 and 1905.

Though this remarkable parallelism occurred in the careers of these two distinguished anthropologists, their mental characters and the services they rendered to anthropology were essentially different. Beddoe was the pioneer of the method of making exact observations on the physical characters of living meu, while Galton was predominantly the pioneer of the mathematical methods of interpreting the data of observation.

Beddoe had not, like Galton, the mathematical mind, but was richly endowed with that extremely quick and flexible mind which is essential for rapid and accurate observation. Up to the end of his long life his intelligence was bright and alert, and he was always ready to receive and sympathetically examine new ideas in his favourite science.

The most important anthropological work done by Beddoe was the long series of observations on the hair and eye colours of the living peoples, chiefly of the British Isles, but also to a less extent of the continent of Europe. These observations were begun as far back as 1846, and continued throughout the remaining sixty-five years of this life. He thus laid the foundations of our present knowledge of the physical anthropology of the living races of Europe, and the example he set was followed by Virchow and others in the great pigmentation surveys that have since been carried out in Germany and many other countries.

A large number of measurements of stature and weight were also collected by Beddoe, and it may be said that our present maps of the distribution of these characters in the British Isles are still founded on the data published by Beddoe in 1867.

In 1867 Beddoe won a prize of 100 guineas offered by the Council of the Welsh National Eistedfod for the best essay on The Origin of the English Nation, This essay was afterwards expanded into his standard work on the Races of Britain.

How prolific a writer Beddoe was may be judged of by the fact that Ripley’s bibliography of his Anthropological memoirs contains some thirty items.

Beddoe took a prominent part in bringing about the amalgamation of the two original rival societies dealing with anthropology in this country, namely, the Ethnological Society and the Anthropological Society, to form the present unrivalled Royal Anthropological Institute. He was also one of the prime movers in securing the formation of a separate section for anthropology at the British Association.

In 1910 Beddoe published an autobiography entitled Memories of Eighty Years, in which the story of his life is written, as he states, from memory, with hardly any assistance from journal or record. This volume gives in a genial easy style a full account of his life’s work interspersed with interesting anecdotes of the many celebrities he came in contact with, and should be read by every anthropologist.

British science need have no fear of holding its own with that of any com¬petitor as long as our country can produce such men as Dr. John Beddoe.

The following bibliography of Dr. Beddoe’s papers, &c., was compiled by him shortly before his death, and, thanks to Dr. A. C. Haddon’s courtesy, now appears below:—

Contribution to Scottish Ethnology. 1853
Ancient and Modern Ethnography of Scotland. (Proc. of Soc. of Antiquaries of Scotland) 1854
Official Report on Kenkioi Hospital, Dardanelles. Appendix 2. Ethnological Notes made at Kenkioi. 1856
Physical Characters of Ancient and Modern Germans. (Trans. Brit. Assoc.) 1857
Physical Character of the Natives of some parts of Italy and of the Austrian Dominions, &c. (Ethnol. Trans., Vol. I., N.S.) 1861
Physical Characteristics of the Jews. (Ethnol. Trans.) 1861
Sur la Couleur des Yeux et des Cheveux des Irlandais. (Bull. Soc. d’Anthr.) 1861
On the supposed increasing Prevalence of Dark Hair in England. (Anthr. Review, Vol. I) 1863
Testimony of Local Phenomena in the West of England to Permanence of Anthropological Types. (Memoirs Antler. Soc., Vol. II) 1865
Head-forms of the West of England. (Ibid.) 1865
Stature and Bulk of Man in the British Isles. (Ibid., Vol. Ill) 1867
Physical Characters of Inhabitants of Bretagne. (Ibid.) 1867
Head-form of the Danes. (Ibid.) 1867
The Kelts of Ireland. (Journal of Anthropology) 1870
Anniversary Address. (Ibid.) 1871
Anthropology of Lancashire. (Ibid.) 1871
Notes on the Wallons. (Ibid., Vol. II) 1872
Anthropology of Yorkshire. (Trans. Brit. Assoc.) 1873
On Modern Ethnological Migrations. (Journ. Anthr. Inst., Vol. IV) 1875
Aborigines of Central Queensland. (Ibid., Vol. VII) 1878
Crania from St. Werburgh’s, Bristol. 1878
The Bulgarians. (Journ. Anthr. Inst., Voi. VIII) 1879
Anthropological Colour Phenomena, Belgium and elsewhere. (Ibid., Vol. X) 1881
Skulls in a Vault under Church at Mitcheldean. (Trans. of Bristol and Gloucestershire Arch. Soc., Vol. VI, 2) 1882
Skeletons found at Gloucester by John Bellows. By J. Beddoe. (Ibid.) 1882
Stature of Inhabitants of Hungary. (Journ. Anthr. Inst.) 1882
Anthropology of Gloucestershire. (Bristol and Gloucestershire Trans.) 1882
English Surnames from Ethnological Point of View. (Ibid., Vol. XII) 1882
Sur la Couleur des Yeux et des Cheveux dans la France du Nord et de Centre. (Bulletins Soc. d’Anthr., Series 3, Vol. V) 1882
Couleur des Cheveux et des Yeux en Suisse. (Soc. de Sci. Nat., Neuchatel) 1883
The Races of Britain. (Bristol and London) 1885
The Physical Anthropology of the Isle of Man. (Manx Note Book) 1887
Stature of the Older Races of England as estimated from the Long Bones. (Journ. Anthr. Inst., Vol. XVII) 1887
Woodcuts. Ratherley, &c., Human Remains discovered there. (Ibid., Vol. XIX) 1890
Observations on Natural Colour of Skin in certain Oriental Races. (Ibid.) 1890
Anniversary Presidential Address. (Ibid.) 1890
Anniversary Presidential Address. (Ibid.. Vol. XX) 1891
Anthropological History of Europe. (Rhind Lectures for 1891; Scottish Review, 1892-3) 1893
Sur l’Histoire de l’lndice Cephalique dans les lies Britanniques. (L’Anthr., Vol. IV) 1894
On the Northern Settlements of the West Saxons. (Journ. Anthr. Inst.) 1895
Anthropometry in India. (Sci. Progress) 1895
On Selection of Man. (A Series of Papers in Science Progress) 1896
Moore, A. W., and Beddoe—Physical Anthropology of the Isle of Man. (Journ. Anthr. Inst.) 1897
On Complexional Differences between the Irish with Indigenous and Exotic Surnames respectively. (Ibid.) 1897
Mediaeval Population of Bristol. (Ibid.) 1899
Contribution to the Anthropology of Wiltshire. (From Wiltshire Arch, and Nat. Hist. Magazine, Vol. XXXIV)
Contribution to the Anthropology of the West Riding, by J. B. and Dr. J. H. Rowe. (Yorkshire Arch. Journ., Vol. XIX)
Die Rassengeschichte der Britischen Inseln. (Politisch-Anthrop. Revue, Vol. III, 1)
A Bushman’s Skull. (MAN, 58) 1901
Sweden Physical Anthropology. (Ibid., 59) 1901
On certain Human Bones from a Cave at Cattedown, Devon, explored by Mr. R. Burnand, F.S.A. (Trans. of Plymouth Inst, and Devon and Cornwall Nat. Hist. Soc.) 1903-4
Cranium and other Bones from Kingston Bagprise, Abington. (Bristol Nat. Soc. Proc.) 1903-4
Somatology of 800 Boys (Navy). (Journ. Anthr. Inst., Vol. XXXIV) 1904
A Method of estimating Skull Capacity from Peripheral Measures. (Ibid.) 1904
Report on Two Skulls from Great Depths at Bristol Dock Gates. (Bristol Nat. Soc. Proc.) 1904-5
Colour and Races, Huxley Lecture. (Journ. Anthr. Inst.) 1905
Hungarian Physiognomy. (Man) 1905
Notes on Crania from Carmelite Friary. (Appendix by J. B.) (Bristol Arch. Notes for 1904, by J. E. Pritchard) 1905
Series of Skulls, Carmelite, from Bristol. (Journ. Anthr. Inst.) 1905
Estimation of Skull Capacity by a Peripheral Method. (Zeitsehrift fur Ethnologic) 1907
Evaluation et Signif. de la Capacite Cranium. (L’Anthropologie)
Ancient Skull from Cave of Lombrive, Pyrenees. (Bristol Nat. Soc. Proc.) 1907-8
Human Bones from Harlyn Bay, Cornwall. (Trans. Roy. Inst. of Cornwall)
Last Contribution to Scottish Ethnology. (Journ. Anthr. Inst.) 1908
Memoirs of Eighty Years. (Bristol and London) 1910


This obituary first appeared as: Gray, John. 1911. ‘John Beddoe, M.D., LL.D., F.R.S., F.R.C.P., Foreign Assoc. Anthrop. Soc., Paris; Corr. Member Anthrop. Soc., Berlin; Hon. Member Anthrop. Soc., Brussels and Washington, Soc. Friends of Science, Moscow.’. Man Vol. 11, pp. 151-153. Reproduced with permission.


To cite this article:

GRAY, JOHN. 1911. ‘John Beddoe, M.D., LL.D., F.R.S., F.R.C.P., Foreign Assoc. Anthrop. Soc., Paris; Corr. Member Anthrop. Soc., Berlin; Hon. Member Anthrop. Soc., Brussels and Washington, Soc. Friends of Science, Moscow.’. Man Vol. 11, pp.151-153. (available on-line: