NameDaniel Garrison BRINTON M.D. 3377
Birth Date13 May 18373378
Birth PlaceThornbury Township, Chester Co., PA, USA
Death Date31 Jul 18993379 Age: 62
Death PlaceAtlantic City, Atlantic Co., NJ, USA
Burial PlaceMedia Cemetery, Media, Delaware Co., PA, USA3380
OccupationSurgeon, Medical Journal Editor, College Professor, Scholar
EducationYale University, 1858; Jefferson Medical School, 1860
FatherLewis BRINTON (1804-1869)
Misc. Notes
Daniel Garrison Brinton (1837-99) was one of the founders of modern American anthropology,* holder of the first professorship of anthropology in the United States, and an esteemed anthropological scholar. His personal library, the only existing intact research library of a scholar prominent in the development of late nineteenth-century American anthropology, forms the core of the anthropology library at the University of Pennsylvania.3381

He served during the Civil war as Medical Director of the II Army Corps, Army of the Potomac.3382

Daniel Garrison Brinton, M. D., was the youngest son of Lewis Brinton, by his wife, Ann Garrison, and was born May 13, 1837. He graduated from Yale University, class of 1858; and from Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, 1860.

On receiving his medical diploma he went abroad and spent a year in extending his studies in Paris and Heidelberg before entering upon the active practice of his profession. He entered the United States Volunteer service, February 9, 1863, as a Surgeon, with the rank of Major of Volunteers, and served until the close of the Civil War, being brevetted,† August 15, 1865, Lieutenant-Colonel of Volunteers, "for faithful and meritorious services."

In 1867, Dr. Brinton accepted the editorship of the Medical and Surgical Reporter, then the only weekly medical journal in Philadelphia, and held that position twenty years.

In 1884 he was appointed professor of ethnology‡ at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and in 1886, professor of American linguistics and archaeology. University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Brinton's specialty, to which he devoted in a large measure, the last twenty years of his life, was the study of the history of the American Indian, and especially his language.

To attempt to catalogue Dr. Brinton's ethnological contributions to literature of the last two decades of the nineteenth century, would require a page of this volume. His researches covered a wide range, embracing the history of the aborigines of both North and South America, and only the technical student can appreciate the immense amount of labor performed by him, the magnitude of his deductions and productions, and their significance from both a scientific and a historical point of view.

He was a member of and president of both the American Folk Lore Society and the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia; a member of the American Philosophical Society; the Ethnographical Society of Berlin and Vienna; of the Ethnographical Societies of Paris and Florence; of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Copenhagen; of the Royal Academy of History of Madrid; a founder of the Archaeological Association, University of Pennsylvania, and of similar organizations in America and Europe.

In the field of American ethnology† Dr. Brinton was the first scholar in the world, and the accepted authority among all scientific students.

He died July 31, 1899. Dr. Brinton married at Ouincy, Illinois, September 28, 1865, Sarah Maria, daughter of Robert Tillson, from Salem, Massachusetts.

From 1862 to 1865, during the American Civil War, he was a surgeon in the Union army, acting during 1864-1865 as surgeon-in-charge of the U.S. Army General Hospital at Quincy, Illinois. Brinton was sun-stroked at Missionary Ridge (Third Battle of Chattanooga) and was never again able to travel in very hot weathers. This handicap affected his career as an ethnologist.

After the war, Brinton practiced medicine in West Chester, Pennsylvania for several years; was the editor of a weekly periodical, the Medical and Surgical Reporter, in Philadelphia from 1874 to 1887; became professor of ethnology and archaeology in the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia in 1884; and was professor of American linguistics and archaeology in the University of Pennsylvania from 1886 until his death.

He was a member of numerous learned societies in the United States and in Europe and was president at different times of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, of the American Folklore Society, the American Philosophical Society, and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

At his presidential address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in August 1895, Brinton advocated theories of scientific racism that were pervasive at that time. As Charles A. Lofgren notes in his book, The Plessy Case, although Brinton "accepted the 'psychical unity' throughout the human species," he claimed "all races were 'not equally endowed,' which disqualified [some of] them from the atmosphere of modern enlightenment." He asserted some have " inborn tendency, constitutionally recreant to the codes of civilization, and therefore technically criminal." Further, he said the characteristics of "races, nations, the only sure foundations for legislation, not a priori notions of the rights of man."

Brinton was an anarchist during his last several years of life. In April 1896, he addressed the Ethical Fellowship of Philadelphia with a lecture on "What the Anarchists Want," to a friendly audience. In October 1897, Brinton had dinner with Peter Kropotkin after the famous anarchist's only speaking engagement at Philadelphia. Kropotkin had refused invitations from all of the city's elites.

On the occasion of his memorial meeting on October 6, 1900, the keynote speaker Albert H. Smyth stated: "In Europe and America, he sought the society of anarchists and mingled sometimes with the malcontents of the world that he might appreciate their grievances, and weigh their propositions for reform and change."3378

Physician; eminent ethnologist and student of Lenape Indians; author. There are numerous references to sources of biographies for Daniel at this source, as well as numerous other Brinton family members, no doubt related.3379

Daniel Garrison Brinton

Daniel Garrison Brinton was born in Thornbury, Chester County, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 1837.1 Like many other late–19th century anthropologists, Brinton was an amateur whose independent means allowed him to pursue personal scholarly research. He received his B.A. degree in 1858 from Yale University, where he developed literary and bibliophilic interests. He prepared for a career as a physician at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia (1858–1860; M.D., 1861) and, after a year of study at Heidelberg and Paris, he began practicing medicine in West Chester, a community located west of Philadelphia.

In August 1862 Brinton entered the Union Army as acting assistant surgeon and the following year was commissioned as a surgeon in the United States Volunteers. As Surgeon-in-Chief of the Second Di- vision, Eleventh Corps of the Army of the Potomac, he saw action at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Look- out Mountain, and Missionary Ridge. In August of 1865 he was
breveted Lieutenant Colonel and discharged, and subsequently re- turned to his medical practice. Brinton served as assistant editor of the Medical and Surgical Re- porter between 1867 and 1874, and as editor from 1874 to 1887. In 1887, at the age of fifty, he re- tired to devote himself to the study of anthropology.

Even as he embarked on a distinguished career as a physician, his interest in Native American anthropology competed with his medical practice. Ultimately it be- came the field that claimed his en- tire attention. He devoted years to researching the topic, and from the publication of his first book, Notes on the Floridian Peninsula, Its Literary History, Indian Tribes and Antiquities (1859), until his death in 1899, he published a series of writings that included twenty-three books and more than two hundred articles and essays. These works considered a wide range of subjects, including mythology and folklore, ethnography and linguistics of American Indians from South America to the Arctic, pre- history and physical anthropology of native North America, and indigenous American literature and writing systems, among others.

Brinton was one of the academic pioneers in American anthropology. He was appointed Professor of Ethnology and Archaeology at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia in 1884, and in 1886, Professor of Archaeology and Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, the second American university to create a chair in anthropology. He was, with Albert Gallatin and Lewis Henry Morgan, one of the founders of the modern ethnological study of the American Indians. In the field of linguistics he showed ability in mastering and classifying Indian languages. Brin- ton strongly contested the theory of the Asiatic origin of American In- dian civilizations, seeking to prove, on the basis of studies of morphological traits, that the American Indi- an languages constituted one of the great speech families of the world.

His The American Race: A Linguisic Classification and Ethnographic Description of the Native Tribes of North and South America (1891) was a seminal work. But Brinton’s most significant contributions were in the field of religion and mythology. He collected, translated, and annotated texts of indigenous mythology and folklore for his Library of Aboriginal Chronicles (1882). In addition to gathering source materials, Brinton carried thorough analyses and synthetic interpretations, beginning with The Myths of the New World: A Treatise on the Symbolism and Mythology of the Red Race in America (1868), and ending with his Religions of Primitive People (1897).The assumption of the psychic unity of mankind underlies all his work in the field of comparative religion and impelled him to argue for the spontaneous origin of religious parallelisms. Brinton’s investigations were based on archival or library re- search rather than on primary fieldwork. He assembled a person- al library, monumental in scale, that reflects the background materials used in most of his research.

A few months before his death on October 27, 1899, Brinton formalized the bequest of his library to the University of Pennsylvania. The American Anthropologist (1898:598) reported that Brinton’s library covered “the whole American field” and was gathered to facilitate “comparative study.” Today the Daniel Garrison Brinton Library at the University of Pennsylvania Museum Library remains the only existing intact research library of a scholar prominent in the development of late 19th century American anthropology.

Brinton’s research interests emphasized Mexico and Central America because these groups “achieved a higher grade of culture than those of the regions to the north” and because of “a much larger body of literature upon them.” Brinton’s extensive scholarly network allowed him to obtain most published works, especially many small and arcane essays, is- sued during the last quarter of the 19th century. The collection grew through personal acquisitions, as well as the purchase of parts of other collections, including those of French Mayanist Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg, Alphonse Pinart, the American bibliophile Henry C. Murphy, and the German physician Karl Hermann Berendt. Brinton also paid a scribe to copy certain manuscripts he was unable to purchase.

The Brinton Library today consists of over four thousand items. It occupies approximately 180 feet of shelf space. Other than an abbreviated shelf-list file maintained at the Museum Library, there is no single catalog yet avail- able for the entire Brinton Library. A list of manuscripts assembled by Karl Hermann Berendt and acquired by Brinton was published posthumously (Brinton 1900; Weeks 1998).

The materials in the Daniel Garrison Brinton Library include monographs, pamphlets, and off- prints from academic journals (there are one hundred sixty-two bound volumes of more than two thousand pamphlets or off- prints of professional journal articles), as well as manuscripts and transcriptions of original manuscripts. The Brinton Library contains material pertaining to a variety of subdisciplines and subjects within late 19th century anthropology. Some of these include: the social issues and context of anthropology and archaeology; general archaeology and prehistory; cultural description and analysis, social organization and structure, ceremonial behavior, and material culture; the disciplinary professionalization of anthropology, professional societies, and education; ethnographic and archaeo- logical fieldwork; folklore, mythology, and religion; linguistics and philology (linguistic philology is an area in which Brinton’s holdings were exhaustive); museums and their development, operation, and collections; physical anthropology, medical anthropology, anthropometrics, craniology, race, and general human evolution; scientific societies and publishing; and bibliography.

In addition to conventional anthropological reports and studies, the collection includes accounts of exploration, early travel narratives, colonial histories, Indian captivity tales, missionary re- ports, and translations of the Bible and other religious tracts into the indigenous languages of North and Central America. Mate- rials written in Spanish, French, Italian, and German are well rep- resented. Periodicals include materials from leading antiquarian and anthropological organizations, as well as issues from local historical societies. In addition, publications from most of the major European learned societies are included. The Appendix gives a list of serial titles represented in Brinton’s pamphlet collection.

The value of the collection as a whole lies primarily in the unity of subject matter, and secondarily in its enrichment from its original owner. Its scope reflects Brinton’s intellectual depth and wide-ranging curiosity. He attempted to keep current in all areas of ethnography and linguistics. While he avoided extreme specialization, he also dealt with many subjects about which he knew comparatively little. At the end of his life the image of the ideal scholar was changing. It was becoming more highly respected to know a great deal about a small field. With the information explosion of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the new professionalism and specialized disciplinary training made the intellectual style of Brinton seem increasingly alien and anachronistic.

In several areas Brinton was at a transition point in the history of American anthropology. Fieldwork was becoming a methodological standard for serious professional students of anthropology. Academic teaching of anthropology became important both for providing institutional support for the discipline and for training a new generation of practitioners. And the effort to achieve terminological consensus reflected the increasing need for professional identity and solidarity among anthropologists.

*Anthropology - The science that deals with the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of humankind.

†Brevetted - A commission promoting a military officer to a higher rank without increase of pay and with limited exercise of the higher rank, often granted as an honor immediately before retirement.

‡Ethnology is a science that deals with the division of human beings into races and their origin, distribution, relations, and characteristics.3


Alex. F. Chamberlain. 1899. “In Memoriam: Daniel Garrison Brinton”. The Journal of American Folklore 12 (46). University of Illinois Press: 215–25.
Family ID5400
Marr Date28 Sep 18653384
Marr PlaceQuincy, Adams Co., IL, USA
 Emilia Garrison (1872-)
Last Modified 22 Jun 2016Created 17 May 2017 Rick Gleason -