Race Science, Eighteenth to Mid-Nineteenth Centuries

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The topic of origin or race has been discussed by several people who seek to define why there are different races in the world. There are those who have tried to apply scientific way a while others attribute the differences to the environment. Some of the people who have tried to explain the concepts are Samuel Stanhope, Fran?§ois Bernier, and George Cuvier. There are divisions on the issue of race because it is a complex issue. The race is a word that is used to indicate a specific ethnic group. Most of the explanations that explain the origin of different races were developed from sixteenth century to mid-nineteenth century. Categorizing human types and defining races in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was part of the larger Enlightenment and scientific project of the time, related to developments in taxonomy and biology. But observers of the race made unscientific logical leaps from their data to their conclusions or used unscientific bases for comparison. The science or race thus reflects the power relationship between the scientists and those they observed more than it informs us about actual differences between groups of people.

Scientific Ideas of Race in 18th Century

One of the scientific ideas developed to explain the origin of race is monogenesis. It refers to the influence environment has towards the development of races. The concept of monogenesis states that race development if based on environmental factors and not inheritance. The concept is called environmentalism. One of the scholars who support attribute the development of different races to environmental factors is Samuel Stanhope Smith. Smith used his wide knowledge and interest to develop the principle. He argued that when people from different races were brought together and lived in a specific region; their generations developed a characteristic that would be associated with the region they lived. As a result, they would look alike over time. The idea came to be when the slave trade was popular, and scientist wondered why there were big differences between people from different regions. The scientist had an answer which stated that the differences were as a result of the differences in environmental condition in different regions around the world. Some of the environmental factors were both natural while others were social. To support the argument, some Senegalese from Africa and Danes from Europe were exchanged. After several generations, Senegalese were changing and becoming white while the Danes were also changing and becoming black. The early scientist made attempts to categorize the races that existed in the sixteenth to mid-nineteenth century. Several people made efforts. Francois Bernier developed four categories of races which he based on color. The four groups are Asiatic, European, Lapp, and African. These are probably the first groupings which were done in the sixteenth century. He also considered lips size and body appearance of the groups, and he was able to interpret it using his knowledge before coming up with the four groups. In the 1730s, Carolus Linnaeus made an effort some improvement to Bernier’s classification.

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