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ANTH 205 Biological Anthropology (Somer) - Scientific Bigotry

Resources relating to issues and practices of scientific bigotry


Herbert Spencer and Social Darwinism
Biologist and philosopher who came up with the phrase “survival of the fittest,” he is accused by some to have equated survival with goodness, which some saw as justifying uncontrolled capitalism and economic competition, leading to the very rich and the very poor. 

Samuel Morton
Scientist and physician who believed there was a correlation between intelligence and brain size.  From his collection of skulls, he concluded that whites have larger skulls than other races and are therefore "superior" and that people of African descent are different from and inferior to whites.   

J. Marion Sims
Called the “Father of Gynecology,” from 1845 to 1849 he carried out a series of experimental surgeries on slave women that he used to develop treatments for his medical practice. 

Louis Agassiz
Paleontologist and teacher who rejected Darwin’s theory of evolution.  He could not accept that all groups of humans belonged to the same species, and argued vehemently for the inferiority of non-white human groups. 

Cyril Burt
Influential British educational psychologist.  After his death he was charged with using false information to support his controversial theory that intelligence is largely inherited.  

Cornelius P. Rhoads
Cancer doctor and researcher accused of causing the deaths of eight Puerto Ricans in the 1930s by injecting them with cancerous cells. 

Rosalind Franklin (victim)
Was responsible for much of the research and discovery work that led to the understanding of DNA but was not given credit for her work because of academic discrimination against women in the sciences.

Henrietta Lacks (victim)
A poor Southern African American woman who was the source of what are now known as HeLa cells, an immortal line of cells originally taken from her cervix in 1951 and cultivated for use in research and experimentation – all without her knowledge or that of her family.

Sarah Baartman
Also called the “Hottentot Venus”, she had  unusually large buttocks and genitals and was put on display in the early 1800s in Europe by people  who believed in their own superiority and that others, especially blacks, were inferior and oversexed.

Lewis Howard Latimer
The son of freed slaves, Latimer was a self-taught inventor and engineer who participated the development of the light bulb and telephone, as well as other inventions. He worked with famed inventors Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison but never got real credit for his own contributions.

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (1900-1979)

A "pioneering astrophysicist" who discovered that the universe is primarily composed of hydrogen and helium.  Although getting her doctorate from Harvard, she was denied advancement to professor because she was a woman.  She spent years in lesser, low-paid duties.  It was only in in 1956 that she achieved two Harvard firsts: she became the first female professor, and the first woman to become department chair.


Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray
Authors of the book The Bell Curve, they state that IQ tests measure general intelligence, that intelligence is substantially inherited, and blacks are overrepresented among the unintelligent.

Petrus Camper
Dutch physician and scientist whose researched face angles (ex. forehead to jaw) to try to distinguish differences between human races.  

Cesare Lombroso
19th century criminologist who theory about crime was that some people are born criminals and they can be identified by their deformities in their body.  

James Watson
1962 Nobel prize winner for his discoveries involving DNA was quoted in the Times of London as suggesting that, over all, people of African descent are not as intelligent as people of European descent.

J. Phillipe Rushton
Canadian psychologist whose research and conclusions have been described as racist.  Among his findings are that black people have larger genitals, breasts and buttocks and therefore smaller to brain sizes and intelligence than whites or Asians.

Robert L. Spitzer
American psychiatrist who once claimed that“reparative therapy” can “cure” gays and lesbians and make them straight, but also led  the effort to end the classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder within the American psychiatric profession.

Satoshi Kanazawa
A psychologist who has claimed that black women are less physically attractive than other women because of genetic and biological differences.

Joseph-Arthur, comte de Gobineau
French diplomat, ethnologist, and social thinker who claimed the white race to be superior to any other and that it would remain superior as long as it wasn't "tainted" with inbreeding with other races.

Josef Mengele, Horst Schumann and other Nazi doctors
Nazi doctors who carried out medical experiments on prisoners in concentration camps, including Auschwitz.  The experiments included forced sterilization, starvation, and drug and medication testing.