Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Pearl, Raymond

US biometrician, population biologist at Johns Hopkins; an early student of K. Pearson, Pearl later became an outspoken opponent of the eugenics movement, and even his colleagues admitted that his science was sometimes propagandistic. His professional work centered on the phenomena of human longevity, mortality, and disease. Pearl was among the first to conduct epidemiological studies of popular substances, and he concluded in 1938 that tobacco caused cancer but that small quantities of alcohol were not harmful. Pearl was fascinated with curve-fitting, and extolled the explanatory robustness of the logistic curve. He was a friend of feminist Margaret Sanger (1883-1966) and a member of H. L. Mencken’s inner circle. If not the originator of the term human biology, Pearl is reputed to have codified it. Pearl founded the journals Quarterly Review of Biology (1926) and Human Biology (1929), and much of his work appeared in those vehicles.

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