Alfred Cort Haddon


Alfred Cort Haddon (1855-1940), academic anthropologist, was born on 24 May 1855 at Finsbury, England, to John Haddon, printer, merchant and Baptist deacon, and his wife Caroline, nee Waterman, the author of several books of salutary children's tales. Haddon's early schooling was patchy, with time spent at the City of London Middle Class School and at the Nonconformist Mill Hill School. He became a keen amateur naturalist and pursued this interest by attending evening classes at King's College and Birkbeck College London. He later entered Christ College, Cambridge in 1875, reading the natural science tripos (B.A., 1878) and became curator of the Zoological Museum in 1879 before accepting the Chair of Zoology at the Royal College of Science, Dublin in 1880. Haddon married Fanny Elizabeth (nee Rose, 1857-1937) in 1881 and had two daughters and one son.
On the advice of T H Huxley, Haddon set up an expedition to the Torres Strait, an area in which he would develop an abiding intellectual interest which ultimately led to his conversion from natural science to anthropology. He arrived in Torres Strait in August 1888 and collected a large collection of ethnographic specimens. On returning to Britain he began reading anthropology at Cambridge in 1893 and in 1895 began lecturing in physical anthropology before achieving his doctorate of Science in 1897. He set up another trip to the Torres Straits and this time took a team of anthropologists including C S Myer, W H R Rivers, S H Ray, William McDougall and C G Seligman. The expedition was a rigorous and sophisticated regional ethnography and the bulk of the work was edited and published in six volumes between 1901 and 1935. In 1900, Haddon was appointed lecturer in ethnology at Cambridge and the following year was made a fellow of Christ's College. His involvement with the Horniman Museum began in 1901 and from 1902-1915 he held the position of Advisory Curator. In 1920, he was employed as assistant curator at the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Haddon retired in 1925 and committed himself to publishing including the first volume of the Reports of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits. His scholarly output was prodigious, and included The Study of Man (London, 1895), Evolution in Art (1895), Head-Hunters, Black, White and Brown (1901) and History of Anthropology (1910), yet he is best remembered for his Torres Strait publications.

His association with the Horniman Museum began in 1901 when the London County Council asked him to inspect the collection following Frederick John Horniman’s gift of the Museum to the people of London. Following his report in 1902, Haddon was appointed as advisory curator and he held this position until 1915. Under Haddon’s guidance, the Museum redesigned and reclassified the collection as an educational resource reflecting the evolutionary approach to technology. His vision for the Museum was more or less continued by the two subsequent curators of the Museum, Dr Herbert Spencer Harrison and Dr L W G Malcolm, who were both former associates and students of Haddon.

The collections within the Museum also reflect Haddon’s influence both through the emphasis placed on Oceanic specimens, in particular from New Guinea and the Torres Straits and collections from his personal network of friends and associates who included: Charles Hose (Borneo), Sir Everard im Thurn and his son E. B. Haddon (East Africa), Stanley Gardiner (the Maldives), Charles Seligman and Major Cooke Daniells (New Guinea), Radcliffe Brown (the Andaman Islands), and Emil Torday (the Congo).

Brief biography

anthropologist, academic and zoologist (1855-1940)

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