Sunday, 27 February 2011

Johann Blumenbach

'Physician, anthropologist, naturalist, physiologist, historian and bibliographer, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach is generally regarded as the founder of physical and scientific anthropology. He first used the word ”race” in 1775 to classify humans into five divisions: Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, American, and Malay. Blumenbach also coined the term "Caucasian" because he believed that the Caucasus region of Asia Minor produced "the most beautiful race of men". Both Carl von LinnĂ© (1707-1778) and Blumenbach stated that humans are one species, and the latter remarked on the arbitrary nature of his proposed categories. Blumenbach was also one of the founders of comparative anatomy and the first to lecture on the topic.

Blumenbach’s fame is based mainly on his role in the founding of scientific anthropology. He was one of the first scientists to view man as an object of natural history, and saw in him «the most perfect of all domesticated animals». On the other hand, he gave special emphasis to the gap between man and animal and attacked all political or social abuses of anthropological ideas, in particular that black men were on a lower level of humanity than white men. In his dissertation one can find the first reliable survey of the characteristics and distribution of the human races.

In his classification of the subdivisions of the human race Blumenbach was the first to utilize facial configuration as well as skin colour, and his system has survived to the present with but little modification. His most important anthropological work was a collection of 60 human craniums described in his Collectionis suae Craniorum Diversarum Gentium Illustrate Decades (1790-1828).

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