Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version


Thesis Advisor

Janet Monge, Paul Wolff Mitchell


history of science, Broca, race, polygenesis, hybrid, anthropometry


Paul Broca (1824-1880) was a French physician and anthropologist whose belief in the polygenesis of human origins was inextricably linked to the question of human hybridity. His studies on hybridity began in 1857 after he observed leporids, the crossing of a hare and a rabbit. He applied his methods of analyzing these animal hybrids to mixed-race individuals, a task he believed would prove polygenism. His studies laid the basis for French anthropology and led to the founding of the Société d’Anthropologie de Paris, the world’s first anthropological society. Broca’s background in mathematics led him to expand upon methods of quantifying human difference and to develop new anthropometric measurements, which are arguably his greatest contribution to biological anthropology. Broca was one of the purest scientists of his age and exclusively relied on quantitative data. His portrayal in secondary literature does not demonstrate this fact and he is often considered a key figure in 19th century racist science. Drawing from the work of philosophers of science Georges Canguilhem and Ian Hacking, this paper argues that Broca develops anthropometry to classify mixed-race individuals, effectively creating the biological concept of a human hybrid, a type of person that did not exist before.



Date Posted: 31 May 2017


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