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Montague Francis Ashley Montagu (born Israel Ehrenberg on June 28, 1905, London, Great Britain - died November 26, 1999, Princeton, New Jersey, United States) was a British-American anthropologist and humanist, of Jewish ancestry, who popularized topics such as race and gender and their relation to politics and development. He was the rapporteur (appointed investigator), during 1950, for the UNESCO statement The Race Question. As a young man he changed his name to "Montague Francis Ashley-Montagu". After relocating to the United States he used the name "Ashley Montagu".
According to a 1995 interview by Leonard Lieberman, Andrew Lyons and Hariet Lyons in the publication Current Anthropology, Montagu grew up in London's East End. He claimed that he was often subjected to antisemitic abuse when he ventured from his own Jewish neighborhood. He developed an interest in anatomy very early and as a boy was befriended by Arthur Keith. During 1922, at the age of 17, he entered University College London, where he received a diploma in psychology after studying with Karl Pearson and Charles Spearman and taking anthropology courses with Grafton Elliot Smith and Charles Gabriel Seligman. He also studied at the London School of Economics, where he became one of the first students of Bronisław Malinowski. He did postgraduate work at Columbia University in New York, where he produced a dissertation during 1936 entitled Coming into being among the Australian Aborigines: A study of the procreative beliefs of the native tribes of Australia which was supervised by cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict. He taught anatomy at various schools in the United States before becoming an professor of anthropology at Rutgers from 1949 until 1955.
During the 1950s Montagu published a series of works questioning the validity of race as a biological concept, including the UNESCO Statement on Race and his very well-known Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race. He was opposed particularly to the work of Carleton S. Coon. During 1952, together with William Vogt, he gave the first Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture, inaugurating the series.
Due to political disputes concerning Montagu's involvement with the UNESCO Statement on Race, he was dismissed from Rutgers University and "found all other academic avenues blocked." He retired from his academic career during 1955 and relocated to Princeton, New Jersey to continue his popular writing and public appearances. He became a well-known guest of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. He addressed his numerous published studies of the significant relationship of mother and infant to the general public. The humanizing effects of touch informed the studies of isolation-reared monkeys and adult pathological violence that is the subject of his Time-Life documentary "Rock A Bye Baby" (1970).
Later in life, Montagu actively opposed genital modification and mutilation of children. During 1994, James Prescott, Ph.D., wrote the Ashley Montagu Resolution to End the Genital Mutilation of Children Worldwide: A Petition to the World Court, The Hague, named in honor of Dr. Montagu, who was one of its original signers.
During 1995, the American Humanist Association named him the Humanist of the Year.
Montagu, who became a naturalized American citizen during 1940, taught and lectured at Harvard, Princeton University, Rutgers University, the University of California, and New York University. He wrote over 60 books.
Montagu wrote the Foreword and Bibliography of the 1955 edition (reprinted 2005) of Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution by Petr Kropotkin, and in 1956, he edited Toynbee and History: Critical Essays and Reviews(1956 Cloth ed.). Boston: Extending Horizons Books, Porter Sargent Publishers. ISBN 0-87558-026-2., a critique of Arnold J. Toynbee's seminal A Study of History.
He is co-author with Floyd Matson of The Human Connection and The Dehumanization of Man. He is the writer and director of the film One World or None, described as one of the best documentaries ever made.