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Anatomists of Empire : Race, Evolution and the Discovery of Human Biology in the British World


Race, Evolution and the Discovery of Human Biology in the British World


Australian Scholarly Publishing:

North Melbourne, 2020

Of skulls, an astonishing hoax, the beginnings of the study of humankind, scientistic racism - and the Australian scientists in the thick of it …


The 20th-century anatomists Grafton Elliot Smith, Frederic Wood Jones and Arthur Keith travelled the globe collecting and constructing morphologies of the biological world with the aim of linking humans to their deep past as well as their evolutionary niche. They dissected human bodies and scrutinised the living, explaining for the first time the intricacies of human biology. They placed the body in its environment and gave it a history, thus creating an ecological synthesis in striking contrast to the model of humanity that they inherited as students.


Their version of human development and history profoundly influenced public opinion as they wrote prolifically for the press, published bestsellers on human origins and evolution, and spoke eloquently at public meetings and on the radio.


By changing popular views of race and environment they moulded attitudes as to what it meant to be human in a post-Darwinian world - thus providing a potent critique of racism.

Review extracts


'This is a book which covers a wide expanse of Intellectual history ...The author outlines such themes lucidly while bolstering his arguments with a secure foundation in research. It is a book which should be of interest to a wide body of readers, including historians of medicine, anthropology and empire.'

Australian Historical Studies, John Gascoigne, University of New South Wales

‘I recommend [Anatomists of Empire] unreservedly.’ 

‘Even with the generous word allowance of a lead book review, I cannot possibly do justice to the richness of the background material explored by Jones.’

‘Jones is an effective and reliable guide to the careers and professional legacies of three researchers who helped shape our discipline.’

Journal of Human Evolution, Bernard Wood, Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, The George Washington University


‘remarkable biographies are skilfully interwoven within a not-inconsiderable wider history of anatomy and anthropology and what became the scientific quest to understand humanity’

‘he tells a compelling tale … that will be of interest to both the historian of science and the general reader’

‘fascinating reading’

‘another engaging thread is the description of the ways anatomical knowledge was gathered and disseminated across the world’

‘of interest to both the historian of science and the general reader’

Journal of Anatomy, Malcolm MacCallum, Anatomical Museum, University of Edinburgh


‘This is an interesting and complex study’

‘this book goes everywhere'

‘this is an elegant book … comprehensive and readable’ 

Historical Records of Australian Science, Philippa Martyr, University of Western Australia


You can purchase this book in paperback or as an eBook ...

Humanity's Mirror : 150 Years of Anatomy in Melbourne

150 Years of Anatomy in Melbourne

Haddington Press:

North Melbourne, 2007

Humanity’s Mirror explores the study of anatomy in Melbourne in the last one hundred and fifty years. It is a unique exposition of the creation and growth of a university anatomy department in a thriving medical school. For much of this period, anatomy was the queen of the medical sciences and occupied the most important place in medical education in Melbourne. Humanity’s Mirror follows the development of education before ‘bacteria’ and modern surgery when quacks often had as much credibility as university-trained practitioners until the establishment of today’s world-renowned high-tech biomedical precinct in Melbourne’s Parkville.

Far from portraying anatomy as a dry and unapproachable subject, this book serves up a rich feast of adventure, scandal and humour. Famous Melbourne criminals walk in and out of its pages. Humanity’s Mirror is about the social and intellectual life of medical Melbourne, which was replete with heroes and villains, valor and pettiness, drama and intrigue. It uncovers a wide variety of forgotten archival material and is, therefore, a rich and unparalleled source for medical and social historians and their students, Foe anyone curious about the intriguing story of medical Melbourne, it provides compelling reading.

The Death Mask of Ned Kelly

The Death Mask of Ned Kelly, 

taken just after his hanging
(Harry Brookes Allen Museum, University of Melbourne)

Review extracts


'Who would have thought this would make such an interesting read? ... In a word: compelling'

Melbourne Herald Sun 8 December 2007


'a valuable study of anatomy and medicine, and ... provides a keyhole onto the place and time it deals with'

Melbourne Age 4 August 2007


'this well-researched and variously stimulating contribution to Australian medical history'

Australian Historical Studies 39:2008 Paul Turnbull


'I found myself completely engrossed in the telling of this tale'

American Association of Anatomists News, vol. 17, no. 1, March 2008 Bob Hutchins


‘I think your book is a triumph.  All those curious people and now come to life.'


Geoffrey Blainey (private correspondence)


You can purchase a second-hand copy of this book in hardback  ...

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