Remember Anthropologist Who Fought for Human Rights

Jamestown Excavation

Target: Clyde Snow

Goal: Remember forensic anthropologist for his work and dedication to human rights

Clyde Snow is a renowned forensic anthropologist who recently passed away from lung cancer and emphysema. He was 86.

Snow passed away at Norman Regional Hospital in Norman, Oklahoma on May 16, 2014. He will be remembered for his work, which included examining Nazi fugitive Josef Mengele, victims of the Oklahoma City Bombing, and victims of the serial killer, John Wayne Gacy. He also worked outside of the United States in countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and Croatia, identifying bodies in mass graves. He helped build cases against government leaders responsible for killings and other crimes against humanity.

“I find it challenging,” he said. “It is fascinating work. I feel we are doing a little bit of good. It’s not the role of forensic science to put the bad guys in jail, but to evenhandedly collect the evidence.”

He even got a chance to work on historical figures, like King Tutankhamen, and soldiers who died at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Snow was born on January 7, 1928 in Texas, where his interest for the human body came from his father, who was a physician. In 1960, he joined the Federal Aviation Administration, where he developed a computer program to investigate plane crashes. Later, he spoke to the House Select Committee about JFK’s assassination, and several years later identified the remains of Mengele, who was responsible for conducting horrific experiments on prisoners in the famed Auschwitz concentration camp. Later in 2006, he also testified against Saddam Hussein, who was being convicted of mass genocide.

The job of a forensic anthropologist is a grueling and sometimes dangerous one. Those who work in oppressive countries, or ones that are prone to violence, can be threatened and attacked by regimes. Their work allows the public to learn the truth about a victim through their bones, and Snow should be remembered for his work and devotion to human rights.


Dear Clyde Snow,

As a forensic anthropologist who was devoted to giving a voice to those that have passed on, I wish to thank you for your work. Being a fighter for human rights comes in different forms, and a forensic anthropologist is just one of them. I understand that the task of identifying the dead can be a depressing and dark job, but I am glad that you took on the mantle.

I am writing to let you know that you will be remembered. Some who work in your field are often threatened and attacked, but such is the fight for human rights. In time, perhaps the world will acknowledge basic rights for all human beings.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Smithsonian Institute via Wikimedia

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