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Franz Weidenreich Edit Profile

Anatomist , anthropologist , director , professor

Franz Weidenreich was a Jewish German anatomist and physical anthropologist who studied evolution.


Franz Weidenreich the son of a merchant, was born on June 7, 1873, in Edenkoben in the Bavarian Palatinate.


After studying medicine at the universities of Munich, Kiel, Berlin, and Strassburg, he received his M. D. degree from Strassburg in 1889.

During this period he held professorships of anatomy at the University of Heidelberg (1921 - 1928) and anthropology at the University of Frankfurt (1928 - 1935).

In 1935, when he was appointed visiting professor of anatomy at the Beijing Union Medical College, he began the major work with which his name is associated, the monumental study of the fossil remains of Peking man, Sinanthropus pekinensis.


Weidenreich's early work was chiefly in the field of hematology, and while professor of anatomy at Strassburg (1904 - 1918) he published more than 50 papers on the subject.

Weidenreich's first study of human fossil remains, published in 1926, was on the Neanderthaloid cranium of Ehringsdorf.

At the time of their discovery some five years earlier, the only other extremely primitive human fossils known to science (with the exception of the curious Heidelberg jaw) were the skull fragments of Java ape-man, Homo erectus (formerly classified as Pithecanthropus erectus).

Sinanthropus resembled Homo erectus in many aspects of skull and tooth form.

In 1938 was announced the important find of a large skull of this type, Pithecanthropus robustus.

In Beijing in 1939, Weidenreich published an account of three skulls of Homo sapiens found in an upper stratum at Chouk'outien, "On the Earliest Representatives of Modern Mankind Recovered on the Soil of East Asia. "

In 1940 he left Beijing for the United States, taking with him the painstakingly prepared casts of the Sinanthropus material.

Because the originals have since been lost, the scientific world owes a great debt to Weidenreich. In 1941 Weidenreich became associated with the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and spent the remaining years of his life in the preparation of his monograph "The Skull of Sinanthropus pekinensis" (1943), and of more than 30 additional scientific papers.

Weidenreich combined the faculties of generalization and particularization.

It is significant that in his last years he engaged with von Koenigswald upon the preparation and description of the Solo skulls from Java, along with the writing of his theoretical papers.

Probably his descriptive work, especially that on Sinanthropus, will have a greater long-term influence, but even in this sphere his work was greatly enhanced by seeing the necessity for comparison and correlation at every step.


  • He is known for his descriptions of Peking man (described by Weidenreich as Sinanthropus pekinensis).

    The first recipient of the Viking Fund medal and prize (1946) in physical anthropology.