Controversial skull study gets a new spin
Behind the "staff only" door at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, student interns are wheeling around carts of human skulls from nearly every corner of the globe.
The collection contains 2,000 of them, many with carefully printed labels across the foreheads - Icelandic, Peruvian, Mexican Aztec. They form part of a famous - and infamous - collection amassed by Philadelphia physician/scientist Samuel Morton.
Morton used them in the 1830s to make comparative measurements of skull volume - which were seized on by others to assert that whites were smarter than other races because they had bigger brains. The work was seemingly debunked by Harvard paleontologist and writer Stephen Jay Gould in his 1981 book The Mismeasure of Man.
Now Penn Museum anthropologists and colleagues are critiquing Gould's critique. Morton, they say, was right in his measurements, but racist statements based on his work were not. In a paper released last week, they say Gould selectively manipulated data to prove his point.
The paper marks the latest twist in a 180-year tale that touches on racism, bias, ego, the foibles of scientists and their critics, and the oversize shadows left by Samuel Morton and Stephen Jay Gould.
Museum anthropologist Janet Monge, one of the authors of the new paper, said she and Alan Mann, then a museum curator, saw a problem soon after the 1981 publication of Gould's book, which challenged a number of concepts related to race, categorization, and the ranking of humans by intelligence through IQ and other "mismeasures." ...............
comments powered by Disqus
- Revised AP U.S. History Standards Will Emphasize American Exceptionalism
- In a county that tried to amend U.S. history course, a lesson in politics
- Overhauling La Guardia, an Airport With a Historical Name but a Tarnished Image
- Now it can be told: The weakening of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is the crowning achievement of GOP partisans who detested the law
- Japanese textbooks may sanitize history, but comic art books don't
- Historians Against the War gathering signatures for new resolution to AHA on alleged violations of academic freedom in Israel
- Academic Seeks Death Certificate for Outlaw Billy the Kid
- Murderer of historian of Czech Jewry goes on trial
- Election results are in for the American Historical Association
- Nial Ferguson warns Obama’s bet on Iran has low odds of success