Earnest Hooton

Earnest Hooton

Infobox Scientist
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birth_date = November 20, 1887
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death_date = May 3, 1954
death_place = Cambridge, Massachusetts
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nationality = United States
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field = physical anthropologist
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alma_mater =University of Wisconsin-Madison
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known_for = racial classification
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Earnest Albert Hooton (November 20, 1887, Clemansville, Wisconsin – May 3, 1954, Cambridge, Massachusetts) was a U.S. physical anthropologist known for his work on racial classification and his popular writings such as the book "Up From The Ape". Hooton sat on the Committee on the Negro to prove that blacks are closer to primitive man than whites and to compare blacks with apes. [American Anthropological Association. "Eugenics and Physical Anthropology." 2007. August 7, 2007. [http://www.understandingrace.org/history/science/eugenics_physical.html] ]

Hooton was educated at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. After earning his BA there in 1907, he won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, which he deferred in order to continue his studies in the United States. He pursued graduate studies in Classics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he received an MA in 1908 and a Ph.D. in 1911 on "The Pre-Hellenistic Stage of the Evolution of the Literary Art at Rome" and then continued on to England. He found the classical scholarship at Oxford uninteresting, but quickly became interested in anthropology, which he studied with R.R. Marett, receiving a diploma in 1912. At the conclusion of his time in England, he was hired by Harvard University, where he taught until his death in 1954. During this time he was also Curator of Somatology at the nearby Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

Hooton was known for combining a rigorous attention to scholarly detail combined with a candid and witty personal style. Henry Shapiro remembers that his lectures "were compounded of a strange, unpredictable mixture of strict attention to his duty to present the necessary facts... and of a delightful impatience with the restrictions of this role to which he seemed to react by launching into informal, speculative, and thoroughly entertaining and absorbing discussions of the subject at hand." As a result Hooton attracted a large number of students and established Harvard as a center for physical anthropology in the United States.

Many of Hooton's research projects were endebted to his training in physical anthropology at a time when this field consisted most of anatomy and focused on physiological variation between individuals. The 'Harvard Fanny Study', for instance, involved measuring buttock spread and buttock-knee lengths in order to design more comfortable chairs for the Pennsylvania railroad. A similar study on the restrictive shape of ball-turrets in the B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft was decisive in the creation of a mature applied physical anthropology in the United States.

Hooton was an advanced primatologist for his time. If the great Latin playwright Terence said "Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto" ("I am a man; nothing about men is alien to me"), Hooton, following and correcting him, used to say: "Primas sum: primatum nihil a me alienum puto" ("I am a primate; nothing about primates is alien to me"). [Hooton, Earnest Albert: "The Importance of Primate Studies in Anthopology" in GAVAN, James A. (ed.): The Non-Human Primates and Human Evolution. In Memory of Earnest Albert Hooton (1887-1954),Wayne University Press, 1955, pp.1-10] , which today is the slogan of many friends of the Primates, human and non-human alike.

Hooton was also a public figure well-known for popular volumes with titles like "Up From the Ape", "Young Man, You are Normal", and "Apes, Men, and Morons". He was also a gifted cartoonist and wit, and like his contemporaries Ogden Nash and James Thurber he published occasional poems and drawings that were eventually collected and published.

Racial Inequality

He used comparative anatomy to divide humanity up into races — in Hooton's case, this involved describing the morphological characteristics of different 'primary races' and the various 'subtypes'. In 1926, the American Association of Physical Anthropology and the National Research Council organized a Committee on the Negro, which focused on the anatomy of blacks. Among those appointed to the Committee on the Negro were Aleš Hrdlička, Earnest Hooton and eugenist Charles Davenport. In 1927, the committee endorsed a comparison of African babies with young apes. Ten years later, the group published findings in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology to "prove that the negro race is phylogenetically a closer approach to primitive man than the white race." Perhaps more than any scientist of his time, Hooton did more to establish racial stereotypes about black athleticism and black criminality from an anthropological framework. Hooton was one of the first researchers to subject his theories to extremely rigorous mathematical evaluation as well as openly admit the importance of exceptions to, and overlap in, his system.


E.B. Reuter, a sociologist and contemporary of Hooton, criticized Hooton for using circular logic when he ascribed the physical traits of criminals to cause criminality. [Wright, Richard A. Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. "Encyclopedia of Criminality." 2004. August 4, 2007. [http://www.routledge-ny.com/ref/criminology/physical.html] ]


*cite journal
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journal=Am. J. Phys. Anthropol.
publisher= |location = Not Available| issn = 0002-9483| pmid = 13207337
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* Birdsell, Joseph 1987. "Some reflections on fifty years in biological anthropology" in "Annual Reviews of Anthropology" 16(1):1-12.
* Krogman, Wilton 1976. "Fifty years of physical anthropology: the men, the materials, the concepts, and the methods" in "Annual Reviews of Anthropology" 5:1-14.
* [http://www.aaanet.org/gad/history/083hootonobit.pdf Shapiro, H. 1954. "Earnest Albert Hooton, 1887-1954"] (obituary) in "American Anthropologist" 56(6): 1081-1084
* Garn, Stanley and Giles, Eugene. 1995. "Earnest Albert Hooton, November 20 1887 - May 3 1954". Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America v. 68 167-180.

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