Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/275

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263
M. PAUL BROCA.

Broca had a high opinion of the value of statistics, and employed them extensively in his researches, as constituting a sure basis for sound conclusions. He uttered a very expressive appreciation of them when he said once in the Academy of Medicine: "Statistics are the anatomy and physiology of the social body. Without them, we grasp only little groups, our judgments are mere impressions, and, even if these impressions do not deceive us, they make us but imperfectly acquainted with facts that are only partial, and the laws of which escape us." Applying the method of means derived from statistics to anatomy, he renovated and almost created anthropology.

After 1859, Broca pursued a double purpose. Without neglecting any of his manifold medical duties, he undertook the considerable task of founding a new society, and almost of a new science. The incidents which led to this step date from 1847, when Broca, as medical assistant, was appointed for the study of the bones, upon a special commission charged with making a report on the excavations in the Church of the Celestins. In preparing to draw up his report, he was led to read the works in which craniology was discussed; and thenceforth, although his competitions drew him to different studies, he continued to read with a lively interest the books, then rare, which treated of man and the human races. The ethnology of the day tended to contract its programme around the then overshadowing question of monogeny or polygeny, and the Ethnological Society of Paris had so exhausted itself with the reiteration of its narrow debates that it had ceased to meet in 1848. Ten years afterward, Broca, having brought out certain facts in hybridity, desired to communicate them to the Society of Biology. He had not foreseen the pusillanimity of some of his colleagues. Some of his positions were contradictory of the doctrine of the monogenists, and Rayer, president of the society, alarmed at the views contained in it, asked Broca to withhold his communications on the subject. He accordingly sought another channel for the publication of his memoir.

This incident, which greatly disturbed the Biological Society, suggested the necessity of founding a new society, in which questions relating to mankind could be given free scope. The project had to make its way against difficulties. Broca wanted to obtain twenty members, but, after a whole year of effort, he had to begin with nineteen. Then there was trouble in getting an authorization for the meeting of the society. The Government officers were afraid of its name, apprehending that the strange word "anthropology" might cover some political or social scheme. Finally, the prefect of the police, judging that a meeting of one short of twenty persons did not require special authorization, gave Broca permission to meet with his friends, on condition that he should be personally responsible for all that might be said against society, religion, or the Government, and that an agent of police should always be present in citizen's dress to