Saturday, October 08, 2022

Margaret Mead, the healed femur, and the accurate attribution of a quotation

The first sign of civilization in the archaeological record is a fossilized femur with signs that it was broken and then healed: this idea is attributed to Margaret Mead. As Quote Investigator has shown, though, it appears not in her own works but only as an anecdote about a Mead lecture in a 1980 book by Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: A Surgeon Looks at the Human and Spiritual Body." To present the captivating idea accurately while also still being able to appeal to the famous anthropologist's authority, one cannot avoid a somewhat clumsy phrase like "as Margaret Mead is said to have claimed in a lecture." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 8 October 2022)


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