Johann Friedrich Blumenbach: Race and Natural History, 1750–1850, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach

Race and Natural History, 1750–1850, 1st Edition

Edited by Nicolaas Rupke, Gerhard Lauer


264 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9781138738423
pub: 2018-07-12
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315184777
pub: 2018-07-11
from $27.48

FREE Standard Shipping!


The major significance of the German naturalist-physician Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752–1840) as a topic of historical study is the fact that he was one of the first anthropologists to investigate humankind as part of natural history. Moreover, Blumenbach was, and continues to be, a central figure in debates about race and racism.

How exactly did Blumenbach define race and races? What were his scientific criteria? And which cultural values did he bring to bear on his scheme? Little historical work has been done on Blumenbach’s fundamental, influential race work. From his own time till today, several different pronouncements have been made by either followers or opponents, some accusing Blumenbach of being the fountainhead of scientific racism. By contrast, across early nineteenth-century Europe, not least in France, Blumenbach was lionized as an anti-racist whose work supported the unity of humankind and the abolition of slavery.

This collection of essays considers how, with Blumenbach and those around him, the study of natural history and, by extension, that of science came to dominate the Western discourse of race.

Table of Contents


List of figures and tables

Notes on Contributors




Blumenbach studies

1. Introduction: brief history of Blumenbach representation

Nicolaas Rupke and Gerhard Lauer

2. Johann Friedrich Blumenbach-online

Gerhard Lauer and Heiko Weber

Defining human races

3. Buffon, Blumenbach, Herder, Lichtenberg and the origins of modern anthropology

Carl Niekerk

4. Climate change and creolization in French natural history, 1750-1795

E.C. Spary

5. Blumenbach’s collection of human skulls

Wolfgang Böker

6. Blumenbach's theory of human races and the natural unity of humankind

Thomas Junker

7. A defence of human rights: Blumenbach on albinism

Renato G. Mazzolini

Racism, anti-racism and Eurocentricity

8. Blumenbach’s race science in the light of Christian supersessionism

Terence Keel

9. The beautiful skulls of Schiller and the Georgian girl: quantitative and aesthetic scaling of the races, 1750-1850

Robert J. Richards

10. Ethnographic exploration in the Blumenbachian tradition

Peter Hanns Reill

11. The rise of paleontology and the historicization of nature: Blumenbach and Deluc

John H. Zammito

12. The roots of scientific racism and Huxley’s Rule

Nicolaas Rupke

Appendix: Biographical sketch of Blumenbach


About the Editors

Nicolaas Rupke is Professor Emeritus of the History of Science at the University of Göttingen, Germany, and Rupert H. Johnson Jr. Professor at Washington and Lee University, USA.

Gerhard Lauer is Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Basel, Switzerland, and the current director of the Blumenbach – Online project.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Studies in the History of Science Technology and Medicine aims to stimulate research in the field, concentrating on the twentieth century. It seeks to contribute to our understanding of science, technology and medicine as they are embedded in society, exploring the links between the subjects on the one hand, and the cultural, economic, political and institutional contexts of their genesis and development on the other. Within this framework, and while not favouring any particular methodological approach, the series welcomes studies which examine relations between science, technology, medicine and society in new ways, e.g. the social construction of technologies, large technical systems.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Historiography
SCIENCE / History