PHILADELPHIA, June 14 (UPI) -- A 180-year-old study of skull mass was reviewed by University of Pennsylvania scientists who say the study was right but its results were twisted.
Philadelphia physician-scientist Samuel Morton used 2,000 skulls from different ethnic groups in the 1830s to make comparative measurements of skull volume. His work was used by others to assert whites were smarter than other races because they had bigger brains. Morton's work seemingly was discredited by Harvard paleontologist and writer Stephen Jay Gould in his 1981 book, "The Mismeasure of Man."
Penn museum anthropologists and colleagues took on Gould's critique, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday. Morton was right in his measurements, but racist statements based on his work were not, researchers said. In a paper released last week, the team said Gould selectively manipulated data to prove his point.
Museum anthropologist Janet Monge, one of the authors of the new paper, said she and Alan Mann, then a museum curator, noticed a problem soon after the publication of Gould's book, which challenged concepts related to race, categorization, and the ranking of humans by intelligence through IQ and other "mismeasures."
Monge said Morton took all types of measurements of skull features, but the one that's remembered is his comparisons of "cranial capacity" in which he filled skulls with mustard seeds or shotgun pellets to measure volume and estimate who had bigger brains, the Inquirer said. Morton, who was white, found Caucasians had the largest skull volume.
Monge said the collection may be "more useful now than in Morton's time" because the skulls give a snapshot of humanity in the 1800s.