b.24 December 1873 d.19 September 1940
MB Lond(1901) MD(1906) MRCS FRCP(1911) FRS
Charles Seligman was left an orphan at an early age and was brought up by his godfather. He entered St. Thomas’s Hospital with a scientific scholarship from St. Paul’s School and, qualifying in 1896, remained at the Hospital as a house physician and Salter research fellow. Then, as a member of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Islands and Borneo in 1897, he did anthropological field-work among unknown tribes and gained a lifelong interest in ethnology. He returned to become director of the clinical laboratory at St. Thomas’s and to take the degrees of M.B. in 1901 and M.D. in 1906, being awarded the gold medal for pathology with the latter. His studies, however, were interrupted in 1904 when he and Cooke-Daniels led an expedition to New Guinea. His observations were published later in The Melanesians of British New Guinea (1910). Further expeditions to Ceylon in 1908 and to the Sudan in 1909, in which his wife, Brenda, daughter of Myer Salaman, ably collaborated, were recorded in The Veddas (1911) and The Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan (1932). He also wrote The Races of Africa for the Home University Library.
Seligman was appointed lecturer on ethnology at London University in 1910 and professor three years later. He was Hunterian lecturer in 1906 and Arris and Gale lecturer in 1913 at the Royal College of Surgeons and Lloyd-Roberts Lecturer in 1935 at the Royal College of Physicians. He received the Rivers memorial medal in 1925 and the Huxley memorial medal in 1932 and delivered, in 1933, the Frazer lecture at the Royal Anthropological Institute, of which he had been president from 1923 to 1925. He retired from his chair in 1933, and lived at Toot Baldon, near Oxford, for the remainder of his life. Seligman owed his position entirely to his own merit and perseverance. Collecting Chinese porcelain provided an outlet for his highly developed artistic sense. He died at Oxford.
G H Brown
[Lancet, 1940. 1940; Times, 20 Sept. 1940; Nature, 19 Sept. 1940]
(Volume IV, page 520)
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