Johann Friedrich Blumenbach

Also found in: Medical, Wikipedia.

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).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.”


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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Mentioned in ?
References in periodicals archive ?
Hunter, The Anthropological Treatises of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach: With Memoirs of Him by Marx and Flourens and an Account of his Anthropological Museum by John Hunter, M.D.
Evocations of William Cowper's sentimental poem "The Task," on the alienating effects of Western civilization upon the simple Pacific Islander, along with mischievously juxtaposed images of Joshua Reynolds's painting of Omai and Benjamin West's painting of Joseph Banks (both in Tahitian robes, with Omai bearing faintly Greek facial features), remind us that if visiting London changed Omai, so also did his presence there change the way Britain perceived itself--and the way contemporary comparative anatomists like Johann Friedrich Blumenbach and William Lawrence would conceive the prototypes of what was to become race theory in the later nineteenth century.
From Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, King George's court physician who subdivided humanity into five unequal categories during the Declaration of Independence era, to early twentieth-century birth control advocate Margaret Sanger's view of birth control as a means to curb the procreation of "socially degenerate" populations "unfit" for democracy, to the 2005 president of Harvard University's claim that "issues of intrinsic aptitude" explain the under representation of women in the sciences and mathematics, Typecasting leaves no stone unturned from ancient taxonomies of human difference to modern-day battlegrounds of ideas.
Huxley, Henry Maudsley, Bronislaw Malinowski, Leo Frobenius, Theodor Waitz, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, George Cuviers, W.
The first orderly classification of these varieties came in 1776, when a German anthropologist, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840), divided the human species into five races: Caucasian (Europeans), Mongolian (East Asians), Malayan (Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders), Ethiopians (sub-Saharan Africans), and Americans (Native Americans).