Paul Broca (1824-1880), doctor, surgeon, neurologist and anatomist, and also an archaeology and ethnography enthusiast, is the founding father of anthropology (known as “biological” or “physical” anthropology) in Europe, a discipline that is close to biology and humanities. In 1857, he created the world’s first biological anthropology research and teaching laboratory, which merged with the École Pratique des Hautes Études when it was created in 1868, integrating its 3rd section (Natural Science and Physiology), of which Paul Broca was an active member.
An extensive collection of documents, remarkable in its richness and its diversity, was created by Broca and his successors, associates and students. Today, the corpus of the archival fonds of Paul Broca’s biological anthropology laboratory comprises over 2,000 original documents, including handwritten and printed texts, tables, graphs, drawings, journals, correspondence, handwritten notes and photographs, dating back to 1859-1988. These precious documents are of significant interest in epistemological and historical terms and, as a result of the personality of the founder, provide an opportunity to explore the connections between the study of many different specializations such as, neurology, anatomy, anthropology, prehistoric archaeology and ethnography. They chart part of the history of these disciplines and bear witness to the emergence of biological anthropology in France, and to the existence of the EPHE and of its 3rd section since their creation.