Arthur Keith Biography

Arthur Keith was a distinguished Scottish anatomist and anthropologist. Check out this biography to know about his childhood, life, achievements, works & timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: February 5, 1866

Nationality: Welsh

Famous: Physicians Anthropologists

Died At Age: 88

Sun Sign: Aquarius

Also Known As: Sir Arthur Keith

Born in: Aberdeen

Famous as: Father of Modern Nationalism

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Died on: January 7, 1955

place of death: Downe, Kent

More Facts

education: University of Aberdeen, University College London

awards: Struthers Prize

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Arthur Keith was a distinguished Scottish anatomist and anthropologist who made remarkable contribution in the study of human evolution. Born into a modest family with an agricultural background, he was interested his studies right from the childhood and graduated with a degree in medicine. He was strongly influenced by the works of Charles Darwin and decided to shift his focus to anthropology. According to Arthur Keith, the evolution of the human race was as per the evolutionary harvest of nature. He also shared views with regard to the evolution of human society arising from competition based on patriotism, resentment, revenge, morality, leadership, nationalism and so on. He wrote more than 500 publications in the area of human anatomy and human evolution. In his studies he also described cultural differences as a barrier to interbreeding among groups and introduced concepts like ‘in- group’ and ‘out- group’. Arthur Keith was regarded by many, as the ‘Father of Modern Nationalism’. His findings and ideas were well received in the field of anthropology, and he was knighted for his contributions to science.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • Arthur Keith began his career in 1888 after his graduation. He was posted in Siam as a medical officer of a mining company. His initial intention to pursue this job was to collect and study various botanical specimens; however, his interests shifted towards human evolution and anthropology. He worked there for three years after which he went on to continue his studies.
  • Post his doctorate in medicine and earning a fellowship, in 1895, Arthur Keith was employed as the senior demonstrator of anatomy at the London Hospital, and in 1899, he was elected the Head of Department.
  • He published his work ‘An Introduction to the Study of Anthropoid Apes’, in 1897. Between 1897 and 1900, he spent time comparing and studying the anatomy of fossil primates and the living and compiled his research. Though it remains unpublished, these studies laid the foundation for his prominent books and contributions in research.
  • In 1906, Arthur Keith made a remarkable discovery with his student Martin Flack. They discovered the component in the heart that makes it beat, also called the natural pacemaker, the ‘sinoartrial node’.
  • In 1908, Arthur Keith was chosen to be given the conservatorship of the prestigious Royal College of Surgeons and very soon he was appointed president of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain. He held this position for two years between 1912 and 1914. In 1911 his book ‘Ancient Types of Man’ was published.
  • In 1913, he was made a fellow by the Royal Society and a few years later in 1917 he was elected the Fullerian Professor of Physiology at the Royal Institution that is based in London. He held this post until 1923. It is during his post here that he was knighted in the year 1921.
  • Arthur Keith was voted as the president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, in 1927. In 1930, he was elected as the head of his alma mater, the University of Aberdeen and he held his position for three years.
  • In 1931, Arthur Keith aided in building a research institute at Kent, a place where Charles Darwin once lived. The following year he was appointed the master of the institute and he continued to work there for the rest of his life.
Major Works
  • Arthur Keith is well-known in the field of anthropology for his interest in the study of human fossils and evolution of human society. Some of his major works in the field of anthropology are ‘Evolution and Ethics’ (1945) and ‘A New Theory of Human Evolution’ (1947).
  • He is also known for discovering the ‘sinoartrial node’—the natural pacemaker of the heart that is responsible for the initiation of the heartbeat—with his student Martin Flack in 1906.
Awards & Achievements
  • He was honored with knighthood by King George, in 1921.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • Arthur Keith married Celia Gray in 1900.
  • He died on 7 January 1955 in Kent, England, at the age of 89.

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- Arthur Keith Biography
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Last Updated
- October 13, 2017
Arthur Keith

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