About Dr. Aleš Hrdlička
He was born on 29 March 1869 in Humpolec as the oldest son of Maxmilián and Karolína Hrdlička.
Talented Aleš was able to read and write when he was only five and half years old, therefore he could skip the first class of the elementary school. Later, in the council school he was studying Greek and Latin with the local priest.
When Aleš was 13, the economic crisis expelled the whole family of Hrdlička to America. There was not much interest in the father’s craft – carpentry – so Aleš started to work with the father in a tobacco factory. Aleš managed to work for three years. Then he fell ill, and the attending physician discovered his great talent and recommended that he should study medicine. Aleš Hrdlička paid for the studies by working in the hospital as an auxiliary worker.
He graduated in the faculty of medicine in 1892. For a short time he was working in a mental hospital. At that time, anthropometric methods were being introduced to psychiatry because connections were investigated between the physical and mental characteristics.
In 1896, Hrdlička went to study anthropology in France. At that time he also visited Prague for the first time and met the leading Czech anthropologist prof. Matiegka. When he came back from Europe, he got married – his wife Mary who was brought up in Paris, supported Hrdlička in his work and was keen on physical sciences. Therefore they were getting along very well and Hrdlička loved her very much. When she died, he got married again, with a Czech emigrant. Yet, both his marriages were childless. (The urn where his ashes are mixed with the ashes of his wife Mary as Hrdlička wished is deposited in the Humpolec museum.
For some years, Hrdlička was working in the pathology institute where 11 thousand mental patients were treated in the period of 2 years. From this time, several studies about brain originate. For five years he was doing anthropologic research of Indians in the North and Central America.
Hrdlička did not share the opinion of his American colleagues that the process of evolution of mankind in America was the same and parallel as in the regions of the old continent. He was investigating all the known sites of discovery of the primeval man and found out that evolution of mankind is common, that people of all races have common ancestors whose home was in the old continent, not America.
Hrdlička was looking for the answer to the question of inhabitancy of America – he found it in his expedition to Alaska. Based on the research he found out that the first men came to America from the Bering Strait and the chain of the Aleutian Islands. These were people from Mesolith and Neolith.
Thus, Indians originated – the Aztecs, the Incas, whose culture was of the same standard as the culture of the old continent. The second colonization group settled in Alaska – thus the Eskimos originated who perfectly adapted to the rough natural conditions.
By investigating all remnants of the evolution stages right in the sites of occurrence, Hrdlička proved that races from older evolution stages are not necessarily less perfect and the races from younger evolution stages are not more perfect.
The result of the Hrdlička’s research is his motto:
All the mankind is of one origin and all races are equal
For his work and due to his modest way of life, Hrdlička had collected a lot of money that he later donated to development of anthropology in Czechoslovakia. From his support, the magazine Antropologie was funded; he also established foundations for support of studies of poor students and for scientific expeditions. He donated a big part of his library to the Charles University and established a fund for foundation of the Museum of Man.
Aleš Hrdlička wished to spend his old age in Czechoslovakia but it did not come true. He died on 5 September 1943 in Washington where he is buried.