Josiah C. Nott

Josiah C. Nott

Josiah Clark Nott
Nott during the 1860s
Born March 31, 1804
South Carolina, U.S.
Died Did not recognize date. Try slightly modifying the date in the first parameter. (aged 69)
Mobile, Alabama, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Surgeon

Josiah Clark Nott (March 31, 1804 – March 31, 1873) was an American physician and surgeon. He was also an author of surgical, yellow fever, and racist theories.

Nott was influenced by the racial theories of physical anthropology. Morton collected hundreds of human skulls from around the world and tried to classify them. Morton had been among the first to claim that he could judge the intellectual capacity of a race by the cranial capacity (the measure of the volume of the interior of the skull). A large skull meant a large brain and high intellectual capacity, and a small skull indicated a small brain and decreased intellectual capacity. By studying these skulls he came to the conclusion of polygenism, that each race had a separate origin.

Nott, the owner of nine slaves, "used his influence and his science to defend the subjugation of blacks through slavery". He claimed that "the negro achieves his greatest perfection, physical and moral, and also greatest longevity, in a state of slavery".[1]

Early life and education

Born on March 31, 1804 in the U.S. state of South Carolina, Nott was the son of the Federalist politician and judge Abraham Nott. He received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1827 and completed his post-graduate training in Paris, France.[2] He moved to Mobile, Alabama in 1833 and began a surgical practice.[2]


Nott took up theories that the mosquito was a vector for malaria, held by John Crawford and his contemporary Lewis Daniel Beauperthy.[3] He is credited as being the first to apply the insect vector theory to yellow fever, then a serious health problem of the American South.[2] In his 1850 Yellow Fever Contrasted with Bilious Fever he attacked the prevailing miasma theory. Nott lost four of his own children to yellow fever in September 1853.

Morton's followers, particularly Josiah Nott and multiregional hypothesis.

In their book, Nott and Gliddon argued that the races of mankind occupied distinct zoological provinces and did not originate from a single pair, they both believed God had created each race and positioned each race in separate provinces. The doctrine of zoological provinces outlined in types of mankind did not allow for superiority of one type of race over another, each type was suited to its own province, and was superior in its own area. Nott claimed that because races were created in different provinces, that each race types must be of equal antiquity.[4] However Nott and other polygenists such as Gliddon believed that the biblical Adam means "to show red in the face" or "blusher"; since only light skinned people can blush, then the biblical Adam must be the Caucasian race.[5]

Nott persistently attacked the scientific basis of the bible and also rejected the theory of evolution, claiming that the environment does not change any organism into another, and also rejecting common descent. Nott believed monogenism was "absurd" and had no biblical or scientific basis. He pointed to excavations in Egypt which depicted animals and humans as they looked today to refute monogenism and evolution. According to Nott, the monuments and artifacts found in Egypt show us that the "White, Mongolian and Negro existed at least five thousand years ago". Nott claimed that this proved beyond dispute that each race had been created separately.[5]

Nott claimed that the writers of the Bible had no knowledge of any races except themselves and their immediate neighbors, and that the Bible does not concern the whole of the earth's population. According to Nott there are no verses in the Bible which support monogenism and that the only passage the monogenists use is Acts 17:26, but according to Nott the monogenists are wrong in their interpretation of that verse because the "one blood" of Paul's sermon only includes the nations he knew existed, which were local.[5]

In 1856, Nott hired Henry Hotze, to translate Arthur de Gobineau's An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853–55), a founding text of "biological racism" that contrasts with Boulainvilliers (1658–1722)'s theory of races and provided an appendix with the latest results. Gobineau subsequently complained that Hotze's translation had ignored his comments on "American decay generally and slaveholding in particular".[6]

Charles Darwin opposed Nott and Gliddon's polygenist (and creationists) arguments in his 1871 The Descent of Man, arguing for a monogenism of the species. Darwin conceived the common origin of all humans (aka single-origin hypothesis) as essential for evolutionary theory. Darwin cited Nott and Gliddon's arguments as an example of those classing the races of man as separate species; Darwin disagreed and he concluded that humanity is one species.[7]

Nott was a founder of the Medical College of Alabama, established in Mobile in 1858, and served as its Professor of Surgery. In 1860 he successfully appealed to the state legislature for a monetary appropriation and a state charter for the school. During the American Civil War he served as a Confederate surgeon, staff officer, and hospital inspector. He lost both of his remaining sons to the war.[2] Upon his own death in 1873 he was interred in Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile.


  • Nott, Josiah Clark. Sketch of the Epidemic of Yellow Fever of 1847, in Mobile. (1848)
  • Nott, Josiah Clark. Two Lectures on the Connection between the Biblical and Physical History of Man, Delivered by Invitation, from the Chair of Political Economy, Etc., of the Louisiana University, in December, 1848. (1848)
  • Nott, Josiah Clark, and Ralph Hermon Major. Yellow Fever Contrasted with Bilious Fever: Reasons for Believing It a Disease Sui Generis - Its Mode of Propagation - Remote Cause - Probable Insect or Animalcular Origin. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific (1850)
  • Nott, Josiah Clark. An Essay on the Natural History of Mankind, Viewed in Connection with Negro Slavery Delivered Before the Southern Rights Association, 14 December 1850. (1851)
  • Nott, Josiah Clark, George R. Gliddon, Samuel George Morton, Louis Agassiz, William Usher, and Henry S. Patterson. Types of Mankind: Or, Ethnological Researches : Based Upon the Ancient Monuments, Paintings, Sculptures, and Crania of Races, and Upon Their Natural, Geographical, Philological and Biblical History, Illustrated by Selections from the Inedited Papers of Samuel George Morton and by Additional Contributions from L. Agassiz, W. Usher, and H.S. Patterson. (1854)
  • Nott, Josiah Clark, George Robins Gliddon, and Louis Ferdinand Alfred Maury. Indigenous Races of the Earth; Or, New Chapters of Ethnological Inquiry; Including Monographs on Special Departments. (1857)

See also


  1. ^ Dewbury, Adam, "The American School and Scientific Racism in Early American Anthropology", in Darnell, Regna; Gleach, Frederic W., Histories of Anthropology Annual 3, p. 142 
  2. ^ a b c d "Josiah Clark Nott, M.D. (1804-1873)". "Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  3. ^ Chernin E (November 1983). "Josiah Clark Nott, insects, and yellow fever". Bull N Y Acad Med 59 (9): 790–802.  
  4. ^ David Keane, Caste-based discrimination in international human rights law, 2007, pp. 91-92
  5. ^ a b c Scott Mandelbrote, Nature and Scripture in the Abrahamic Religions: 1700–present), Volume 2, 2010. pp. 151 - 154
  6. ^ Burnett, Lonnie Alexander (2008), Henry Hotze, Confederate propagandist: selected writings on revolution ..., University of Alabama Press, p. 5 
  7. ^   p. 217