Piltdown claim that cuts no ice

London Times 24 September 1990

[12] The claim in a forthcoming book that the distinguished anthropologist Sir Arthur Keith clearly masterminded the Piltdown Man forgery has failed to dent his posthumous reputation at the Royal College of Surgeons. Sir Arthur is held in great esteem there as a former anatomist at its Hunterian Museum, and the college awards a Sir Arthur Keith Medal, one of its most prestigious honours, to members giving long and distinguished service.

Heart transplant pioneer Terrence English, president of the college, insists that he and his colleagues will stand by Sir Arthur. "I don't accept the case has yet been proven. There is still a certain amount of controversy."

In his book, Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery , Frank Spencer, a British-born professor of anthropology in New York, claims that after years of research, he has conclusive proof that Keith was the hoaxer who, in 1912, passed off a skull, formed from a modern human cranium and an orang-utan's jawbone, as the missing link between man and ape. It generated a great scientific debate, and only in 1953 was it proved to be a fraud. Until now, the identity of the hoaxer has never been irrefutably established. Spencer maintains, however, that Keith, who died in 1955, was a skilled fraudster who engineered the hoax to advance his career and lied to cover his tracks.

English prefers to think of Sir Arthur as one of the greatest scientists of his day–"perhaps the

greatest". He agrees that should the case be proved, Keith's reputation would suffer. Meanwhile, "his contributions in so many fields were so great that this won't mean he is no longer highly regarded–and there is no question of the college changing the name of the medal."

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