Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Blumenbach, Johan Friedrich

German anatomist, craniologist and founder of anthropology. Although he compared crania only by eye, in 1790 he defined five nonhierarchical human varieties, which he termed Ethiopian, Malayan, American, Mongolian and Caucasian; the latter was the result of the examination of a single skull from the Caucasus Mountains near the Black Sea. Blumenbach was the first to create a typology based solely on morphology; his de-emphasis of behavioral attributes was a departure from earlier taxonomists such as Linnaeus. A biblical monogenist, Blumenbach held that human variation was accounted for by degenerative adaptive responses to varied environments, and that variations in skin color, stature and body proportions had no absolute value, but merge gradually into one another, thus, that classification into human races is arbitrary.

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