Romantic Anatomies of Race: The New Comparative Anatomy and the Case of Victor Frankenstein

  • Peter J. Kitson
Part of the Nineteenth-Century Major Lives and Letters book series (19CMLL)


The new Comparative Anatomy was a Romantic science. It was also a racial science, possibly the most racial of all the newly emerging professional and scientific disciplines of the early nineteenth century. It is significant that Britain’s first permanent chair of comparative anatomy was given to Robert E. Grant, one of the main proponents of the new philosophical anatomy of Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilare, by the new London University in 1827 (Desmond 81). The practice of comparative anatomy was a long-standing one, in one form or another, but it established itself as a fully modern science in the Romantic period (Cole). Enlightenment attempts at classification and description of the natural world in the systems of Linnaeus, Buffon, and others were enhanced by an examination of the internal structures of bodies and the form and function of their organs. One of the great tasks of comparative anatomy was to more correctly situate the place of man in the natural world. In 1698, arguably the progenitor of the comparative anatomist, Edward Tyson, famously dissected the body of a chimpanzee because he was struck with the similarity of the creature to that of human kind. Tyson was the first to suggest that the ape was structurally more closely related to mankind than any other animal.


Comparative Anatomy Vitalist Debate Human Skull Cephalic Index Facial Angle 
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© Peter J. Kitson 2007

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  • Peter J. Kitson

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