Letter

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 GES/1/1
  • Dates of Creation
      27 Sep 1913
  • Physical Description
      4 sheets. Condition: Sheet 4 has been torn, and mended with sellotape.

Scope and Content

Letter from Grafton Elliot Smith to Arthur Keith, discusses in detail the current situation about Piltdown Man, discusses 'Freddy's [Frederick Wood Jones?] illness', difficulty of gaining access to his Piltdown casts which are locked up in a women's school; the original British Museum cast of the Piltdown skull made by Smith Woodward, which he accepts has mistakes in the parietal bones and the need to correct the middle line of the frontal bone; proposed changes will increases in the capacity of the skull; warns against publicising these 'discrepancies'. Smith accuses Keith of making 'a very grave tactical mistake in dragging in Rutot [Belgian palaeontologist], the Galley Hill skull [palaeolithic skeleton found at Swanscombe, Kent, 1888] and the Age Question of the Piltdown Skull at this stage.' Argues that a new reconstruction of the skull will add capacity to the brain. Smith goes on to criticise Keith's attitude in giving support to Rutot and to defending the antiquity of Galley Hill man, where 'the solid opinion of geologists and anthropologists' is against him; claims these arguments are irrelevant in the case of Piltdown. Smith claims Keith did not understand how others view the issue and informs him had to fight on his behalf against the "Ipswich influence". Says [Sir George] Thane [1850-1930 professor of anatomy at University College London] had asked him whether Keith had been responsible for the 'abominable article' in the Times, and says others have asked him why Keith became 'so worked up, when he got everything he could reasonably expect in the way of support?'; considers that Keith will be more persuasive if he bases his arguments on the reconstruction and does not raise 'doubtful issues' or attack 'S[mith]. W[oodward]'. Smith says may intervene in the dispute to try and 'assuage the acrimonious tone'; hopes to present his report on the brain to the Royal Society in October. He urges Keith to stick to the facts.

Dated at: Albert House, Seascale, Cumberland.

Arrangement

It is not clear whether the letter was sent to Keith. If so, it indicates that the letter would have formed part of Keith's papers, and therefore has a different provenance from the rest of the collection. The correspondence between Cave and Mitchell concerning the donation of the collection (GES/4/1) is unclear on this point, although Mitchell states did have access to Keith's papers, although points out these did not contain references to Piltdown.