Ashley Montagu, 95, educator, anthropologist

November 29, 1999

Ashley Montagu, 95, a seminal -- and maverick -- figure in American anthropology for more than 50 years, died Friday at his home in Princeton, N.J.

An educator, prolific lecturer and author of more than 60 books, he attacked several popularly held myths in his writings. One of those myths was that races were unequal.

In the late 1930s, while Nazi troops were imposing Hitler's brand of racial superiority throughout Europe, Mr. Montagu countered by publishing what might have been his most influential and important book, "Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race." In it, he argued forcefully against the belief that race is an absolute term that depicts something about a human being's character and intelligence. He offered persuasive evidence for more genetic variability within each race than among races.

A decade later, he argued against the commonly held belief that women were physically inferior, less original, capable, creative, or financially capable then men, and, in the 1957 book "The Natural Superiority of Women," advanced the idea that women were biologically superior because they had two X chromosomes.

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