Wilton M. Krogman, 84, Forensic Anthropologist

Posted: November 05, 1987

Wilton M. Krogman, 84, a forensic anthropologist who determined the age of Pharaoh Ramses III and identified hundreds of victims of violence, died yesterday at the Moravian Manor in Lititz, Lancaster County.

Internationally famous for his research in physical anthropology, he handled cases ranging from the kidnapped Lindbergh baby to the skeletal remains of mob murder victims dumped in the New Jersey Pinelands.

Described by his colleagues as the "medical Sherlock Holmes," Dr. Krogman was known to police officers as the "Bone Detective." Though his aid was highly prized by investigators, the doctor once noted that he was never invited into a case "until there is no hope."

"But that's wrong," he said. "There's always hope. You often read that someone was 'burned beyond recognition' in a fire. Then I come in and put the lie to it. No skeleton is ever destroyed beyond identification if you have enough time to study it."

As chairman of the department of physical anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, he X-rayed thousands of skulls of the living and dead. They ranged from suspected victims of violence to specimens in Penn's Graduate School of Medicine and mummies in collections at the University Museum.

Each skull offered its own set of clues, he told interviewers.

"The first thing I determine is whether the skull belongs to a male or female. Male skulls tend to be more rugged. Then I determine race. The nasal opening is broader in blacks than whites."

Age is determined in part by a study of the teeth. "I look for wear," he said. "By the age of 30, the cusps of the molars are slightly worn. By the age of 40, enamel is worn off the chewing surfaces."

Dr. Krogman, who retired in 1983 as director of research at the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic, developed his interest early in life when he and his brother found the skeleton of a horse in a vacant lot in Oak Park, Ill.

"It was thrilling to see how everything fit together," he recalled.

He earned his degrees at the University of Chicago and then worked as a lab technician for crime fighter Eliot Ness. He taught at Chicago and at Western Reserve Univesity. In 1947, he became a professor at Penn. That was when he founded the Philadelphia Center for Research in Child Growth in cooperation with Penn's School of Medicine and Dental School and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The center was later renamed the Wilton M. Krogman Center for Research and Development.

Dr. Krogman worked at Penn until 1971, when he became director of research at the clinic in Lancaster.

He spoke and wrote widely in his field. He was the author of more than 150 monographs and articles for professional journals, and was a member of a long list of professional organizations.

He took particular pride in his membership in the Baker Street Irregulars, a group of aficionados and students of Sherlock Holmes.

Surviving are his wife, Mary Helen Winkley Krogman; daughter, Marian; sons, William L., John W. and Mark A.; five grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and a brother.

Services will be held at the convenience of his family.

Contributions in his name may be addressed to the University Museum, 33d and Spruce Streets.

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