Knowledge from the margins: W. Montague Cobb's pioneering research in biocultural anthropology


Creator: Watkins, Rachel Jeannine


Date: 2007

Citation: American Anthropologist Vol. 109-1 (Journal)

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W. Montague Cobb became the first African American to receive a doctorate in physical anthropology in the United States in 1932. He was also among the first U.S. physical anthropologists to demonstrate a commitment to biocultural integration and racial equality in his research. Nonetheless, very few European American physical anthropologists responded to or utilized Cobb's work. This continued after bioanthropology took on a more biocultural focus in the 1980s, some 50 years after Cobb's first studies of this kind. This essay addresses Cobb's research and writing from the first decades of his career to illustrate his contribution to developing biocultural perspectives in physical anthropology. The goal of this article is to move Cobb from the margins to the center of discussions about methodological and theoretical developments in bioanthropology over the past 30 years


  • Cobb, W. Montague (William Montague) 1904-1990
  • National Collections
  • Howard University
  • National Museum of Natural History (U.S.) Dept. of Anthropology


Smithsonian History Bibliography


  • Cobb was a colleague of T. Dale Stewart in the Division of Physical Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History. Stewart discusses his work with Cobb in his oral history interviews in Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9521.
  • See for an image of Cobb's calipers.
  • Image title: American Association of Physical Anthropologists 25th Annual Meeting May 12-14, 1960. The man in the center of the line is William Montague Cobb, to his right is T. Dale Stewart. Located in the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Scurlock Collections, Box 618.04.109.

Contained within

American Anthropologist Vol. 109-1 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • Physical anthropology
  • African Americans
  • Blacks


United States

Physical description

Number of pages: 11 Page numbers: 186-196

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