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ca. 75 linear feet
J. Lawrence Angel was educated in the classics in his native England and at The Choate School in Connecticut. He studied anthropology at Harvard University (A.B., 1936; Ph.D., 1942). He was an instructor at the University of California at Berkeley in 1941-1942 and at the University of Minnesota in 1942-1943. In 1943-1962, he was on the staff of the Daniel Baugh Institute of Anatomy at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, starting as an assistant and rsising to a professor. In 1962, he became the curator for physical anthropology in the Smithsonian Institution's Department of Anthropology and continued in that position until he died. Angel was also a research associate with the University Museum of the University of of Pennsylvania, 1946-1962; civil consultant in surgical anatomy of the United States Naval Hospital in Philadelphia, 1957-1962; visiting professor of anatomy, Howard University, 1962-1986; and professorial lecturer at the George Washington University, 1962-1986. He was also a lecturer in forensic pathology at the department of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, and visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley in 1962.
Angel summarized his research interests as (1) human social biology, involving the "interrrelations of health, disease, body build, longevity, genetic mixture and variability with each other, with climate and ecology, and with level of culture, nutrition and achievement as seen in history, in evolution, or clinically"; (2) palaeodemography as related to the rise and decline of disease (falciparum malaria)"; and (3) "relation of structure to function and to genetic determinants as seen in form of joints and in density, mineral historology and muscularity of bones, or in process of 'arthritic' change in relation to aging."
The single most enduring interest in Angel's career was the pre- and proto-history of the population of Greece and nearby areas of the eastern Mediterranean. Beginning in 1937, Angel made repeated trips to the region, only highlights of which are provided here. In 1938, he studied skeletal material from Troy which W.T. Semple, of the University of Cincinnati had deposited in the Archaeological Museum at Istanbul. In 1938, he studied skeletal material mostly excavated in the area of Corinth. He worked at the Cyprus Museum in 1949, studying skulls from Vasa and skeletal material from Bamboula. During that year, he also studied living people at a Cypriote village. In 1952, he worked with Carleton S. Coon on skeletal material from Hotu Cave. In 1954, he studied materials from the Agora excavations and from Eleusis. During the same year, he also visited the British Museum and many sites in Greece studying Myceanean skeletons excavated by George E. Mylonas, John Papadimitrious, and A.J.B. Wace. In 1954, he again studied skeletal material excavated at Bamboula and, in 1957, skeletons from Eleusis. In 1965, he studied human bones from twenty-two sites in Greece and Turkey that dated from the paleolithic to moderntimes, including material from a Bryan Mawr College excavation at Elmali, an excavation at Karatas-Semeyuk in Lycia, and collections in the Archaeological Museum of Ankara and in the museum at Verroia in Macedonia. In 1969, he worked on material from Kephala, and in 1972, skeletons from Asine in Greece. In 1984, he studied upper paleolithic skeletons from Wadi Kubbaniya.
Angel also carried out work on American populations--prehistoric, historic, and contemporary. In 1944, he worked on skeletal remains from excavations at Tranquillity, California, that were deposited in the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania and in the Museum of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. In the same year, he was one of several researchers involved in an endocrinological, anthropological, and psychological study ofobesity initiatec by the Jefferson School of Medicine.
The first hase of the study lasted until 1948 and was followed by restudy of the subjects in 1954-1957. Around 1959-1961, with Carl Seltzer, he was involved in a study of the relation between constitution and health of students at Harvard University and Johns Hopkins Unviersity, Angel primarily taking care of the work in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he studied skeletal material from Matin's Hundred and other sites of colonia Virginia which resulted, in part, in comparisons with the modern American population. In the 1980s, with Jennifer O. Kelly, he worked on skeletons of African American slaves from Catoctin Furnace, Maryland, and on remains of free African American from the First African Baptist Church in Philadelphia.
Angle was highly regarded for his keen seight and other senses which he used with great effect in examining human remains. Consequently, he was frequently sought as a consultant and regularly carried out forensic work for the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement authorities. In addition, military authorities, archeologists involved in both the study of history and prehistory, and museum people sent him specimens for examination. At the Smithsonian, he not only used and improved the excellent skeletal collection, he had the opportunity to exmaine the bones of Smithsonian benefactor James Smithson and was involved ine arly studies connected with the return of American Indian skeltal materials to appropriate receipents.
Active with several professional organizations, Angel was president of the Philadelphia Anthropological Society in 1956-1958 and associate editor of the American Anthropologist. In 1952-1956, he was the secretary-treasurer of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and, in 1959-1960, vice president of that organization. In 1952-1956, he was an association editor of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. He was president of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology in 1980-1985. For his active professional life, he received the Pomerance Medal of the Archaeological Institute of American in 1983 and the distinguished service medal of the American Anthropological Association in 1986.
Electronic finding aid available via the website of the National Anthropological Archives.
(1) Miscellaneous personal papers, 1933-1986; (2) correspondence, 1936-1986; (3) research in the eastern Mediterranean, 1936-1986; (4) anthropology of chronic disease, 1943-1965; (5) Harvard University-Johns Hopkins University Hospital anthropology study, 1959-1964; (6) five generation study, 1962-1985; (7) skull thickness project, 1968-1976; (8) biological and cultureal microdifferential among rural populations of Yugoslavia, 1981-1986; (9) First African Baptist Church, Philadelphia, 1983-1987; (10) other research projects (bone density change, Catoctin Furnace site, Virginia colonial sites), 1945-1986; (11) education, 1940-1986; (12) legal matters, 1962-1986; (13) reference materials, 1930-1986; (14) writing of J. Lawrence Angel, 1932-1988; (15) Smithsonian Department of Anthropology, Division of Physical Anthropology, 1961-1968; (16) professional organizations and meetings, 1942-1987; (17) writings by other authors, 1950-1985; (18) grants, 1951-1962; (19) miscellany, 1937-1985; (20) photographs, 1936-1986
The Angel papers seem to cover virtually all aspects of Angel's professional life. Included are research material, administrative and curatorial papers, and material concerning his teaching activities. Angel was a capable photographer and there are considerable numbers of photographs included.
The indexing of this record is continued in record aak8019.
John Lawrence Angel Papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Museum Support Center, Suitland, Maryland