John Montgomery Cooper

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John Montgomery Cooper
Professor of Anthropology at the Catholic University of America
ChurchCatholic Church
Personal details
Birth nameJohn Montgomery Cooper
Born(1881-10-28)October 28, 1881
Rockville, Maryland, U.S.
DiedMay 22, 1949(1949-05-22) (aged 67)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
DenominationRoman Catholic
ProfessionPriest, sociologist, ethnologist
Alma materPontifical North American College
Ordination history of
John Montgomery Cooper
Priestly ordination
Ordained by?

John Montgomery Cooper (October 28, 1881 – May 22, 1949) was an American priest, anthropologist, and sociologist. He was a sociology professor at the Catholic University of America and from 1934 to 1949 served as chairman of the first Department of Anthropology in a Catholic university. In his anthropological fieldwork, he specialized in studying the Indians of South America and Native Americans of North America.

Early life[edit]

John Montgomery Cooper was born on October 28, 1881, in Rockville, Maryland and grew up in the city of Baltimore.[2][1] He was a descendant of Quaker Christians from England.[2] He received his education at Pontifical North American College and was ordained a priest in 1905, having completed Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Sacred Theology degrees.[2]


After his ordination to the priesthood in 1905, Cooper received an invitation from the rector of the Catholic University of America to join the Department of Apologetics.[2] Cooper established the Department of Religious Education at the Catholic University of America in 1920.[2] He became an associate professor of sociology in 1923 and gained a professorship in sociology in 1928. From 1934 to 1949, he served as chairman of the first Department of Anthropology in a Catholic university.[1][2][3]

As an anthropologist, his original fieldwork was in the Tête de Boule of Ottawa.[2] Though Cooper's expertise was in the Indians of South America, he never did fieldwork there; instead, he took research trips to study Native American tribes who spoke Algonquian languages, making several visits to the Great Plains and northeastern Canada.[1] From his studies there, Cooper wrote many articles about Algonquian culture, customs, and religion.[1] Cooper developed the theory that both the South American and North American Indians were "marginal peoples" who were cultural relics from prehistoric times and had been displaced by subsequent migrations into less desirable living areas.[1] He first publicized this theory in his 1941 book Temporal Sequence and the Marginal Cultures.[1]

In a hearing before the United States Senate in 1945, To Permit all people from India residing in the United States to be Naturalized, Cooper recorded that: "The people of India are predominantly Caucasoid. Their features, hair texture, hairiness, the shape of the nose, mouth, and so on, are all distinctly Caucasoid".[4]

Cooper founded the academic journal Primitive Man, which was renamed Anthropological Quarterly in 1953.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Cooper died on May 22, 1949 in Washington, D.C.[1]

Selected works[edit]

  • An Analytical and Critical Bibliography of the Tribes of Tierra del Fuego and Adjacent Territory (1917)[1]
  • Religion Outlines for Colleges[2]
  • Temporal Sequence and the Marginal Cultures (1941)[1]
  • The Gros Ventres of Montana (1957)[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "John M. Cooper". Encyclopædia Britannica. October 24, 2020. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Leon, Sharon M. (June 5, 2013). An Image of God: The Catholic Struggle with Eugenics. University of Chicago Press. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-226-03898-8.
  3. ^ Darnell, Regna. Frederic Wright (ed.). Celebrating a Century of the American Anthropological Association: Presidential Portraits. University of Nebraska Press. p. 90. In 1923 he became an associate professor, and in 1928 a professor of anthropology. A separate department was created in 1934 with Cooper as its head.
  4. ^ To Permit All People from India Residing in the United States to be Naturalized: Hearing Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Immigration, United States Senate, Seventy-ninth Congress, First Session, on S. 236. April 26, 1945. United States Senate Committee on Immigration. April 26, 1945. p. 5.