Johann Friedrich Blumenbach

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Blumenbach, Johann Friedrich

(yōhän` frē`drĭkh blo͞o`mənbäkh), 1752–1840, German naturalist and anthropologist. He introduced and developed the science of comparative anatomy in Germany. His De generis humani varietate nativa (1775; tr. On the Natural Varieties of Mankind, 1865, repr. 1969) marked the beginnings of physical anthropology and described the five divisions of mankind which have been the basis of all subsequent racial classifications. Blumenbach's analysis of an extensive skull collection, published as Collectio craniorum diversarum gentium (1790–1828), established craniometric study. English translations of his works include The Anthropological Treatises of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1865, repr. 1969).

Blumenbach, Johann Friedrich

 

Born May 11, 1752, in Gotha; died Jan. 1, 1840, in Göttingen. German anatomist, zoologist, and anthropologist; professor at Göttingen University (from 1778).

Blumenbach was one of the founders of modern anthropology and initiator of craniology, the study of human and animal skulls. He described five races of modern man and noted the existence of mixed races. He was the first to raise the question of the monophyletic origin of human races—that is, he regarded them as varieties of a single human species formed by climatic factors. He opposed the doctrine of preformation. In his attempts to explain the life processes and development of organisms he defended the vitalistic view, admitting the existence of an unknowable “formative striving.”

WORKS

De generis humani varietate nativa, 2nd ed. Göttingen, 1781.
Über den Bildungstrieb. Gottingen, 1791.
Handbuch der vergleichenden Anatomie, 3rd ed. Göttingen, 1824.
In Russian translation:
Rukovodstvopo estestvennoi istorii, parts 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1797.
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