Ashley Montagu, 94, an anthropologist who was a prolific writer and gifted popularizer of his wide-ranging theories and research, died Nov. 26 in Princeton, N.J. He had a heart ailment.
Dr. Montagu was a pioneer in work exposing the fallacy of theories of racial superiority. He wrote extensively on the nature and control of aggression, the successful nurturing of infants and the equality, and even occasional superiority, of women to men.
His writing was based on a lifetime of study and research and drew not only on anthropology but on such disciplines as biology, sociology, psychology, ethnology and paleontology. He gained a reputation as a scholar who integrated scientific disciplines to explore behavioral questions.
His work appeared in more than 60 books and in popular publications that ranged from The Washington Post to the Ladies' Home Journal. He also aired his views on such television programs as "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" and "Donahue."
His awards and honors included the Distinguished Achievement Award of the American Anthropological Association and the Society of American Physical Anthropologists' Darwin Award.
Dr. Montagu, who lived in Princeton, was born in London. He studied psychology and anthropology at the universities of Florence and London, where his professors included the pioneering statisticians and eugenicists Charles Spearman and Karl Pearson.
Dr. Montagu, who became an American citizen in 1940, came to this country in 1927. Ten years later, he received a doctorate in anthropology from Columbia University, where he studied under the legendary professors Franz Boaz and Ruth Benedict.
Though he was a guest lecturer at colleges and universities nearly his entire working life, he left full-time academia at a comparatively early stage. He taught anatomy at various medical schools, then spent six years as chairman of the anthropology department at Rutgers University before retiring in 1949 to devote himself to writing and research.
His first major book, "Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race," had appeared in 1942. It became a major work in exposing racial myths and in 1998 entered its sixth edition.
His 1953 book "The Natural Superiority of Women" received mixed reviews from women's groups. Though he clearly favored economic equality of women in the workplace, he maintained that women, as "superior" to men, should not compete with men's feverish and aggressive work ethics. Instead, he argued, they should spend the early years of womanhood caring for children before entering the work force.
In his 1971 book "Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin," he presented additional theories to his ideas of the role of women and the importance of nurturing. He wrote that the need to touch and be touched is universal and that the more that occurs between parents and babies, the better the child.
In that book, he championed breast-feeding infants and advocated having the children sleep in the same room and, if possible, the same bed as the parents. He also said parents should transport infants on their backs rather than in strollers. And he presented data to support his claims.
In 1981, he published "Growing Young," in which he presented his theory that a child is born with 27 biological gifts that are stripped from it as it "grows up." Dr. Montagu deplored that as part of children's development they are taught to abandon or modify such inborn qualities as love, curiosity and playfulness to become surly and harried adults. The unmistakable lessons were to encourage those 27 biological gifts in children and to try to regain them oneself as an adult.
He also wrote the 1971 book "The Elephant Man," which became the basis of a popular play and film that told the story of John Merrick, who was deformed by illness, and his struggle for life in Victorian England.
Survivors include his wife of 68 years, Marjorie, of Princeton; a son; two daughters; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.