Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

The Science of Race: Scientific Racism

This event has now finished. Please see our events website for details of upcoming events at Brookes.


Who this event is for

  • Everyone


JHB208 Chakrabati Room, John Henry Brookes Building, Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane site


There was an explosion in intellectualism in eighteenth/ nineteenth century Europe. Some ideas birthed the great inventions of the modern age. Other notions were the origin of modern racism. European scientists such as the Swedish physician Carl Linneaus (1707-1778), the English physician Charles White (1728-1813) and the German anatomist John Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840) helped to create ideas and theories that would be called the Science of Race. 

This science or pseudo-science magnified the somatic variations of skin complexion, facial features, hair texture, height, body shape, etc. into differences that could be scientifically evaluated. Some of these thinkers even claimed that the human race did not belong to one 'species' but several distinct ones. And others such as the German philosopher Christopher Meiners (1747-1810) speculated that each 'race' had a separate origin (polygenesis). Other thinkers took notions from the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and created Social Darwinism. This was an idea that some races were inherently inferior and that they should be conquered, enslaved, or even eradicated. Even before these ideas became common currency as a justification or apologia for the later stages of European imperialism; European Americans such as Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) had stated that the 'blackness' of Africans was a disease that must be cured — because the de-facto colour of the human race was white.   

Dr Onyeka Nubia, 
Visiting Research Fellow of the University of Huddersfield, and Director of Studies Narrative Eye.   

Organised by the BAME Action Group, Centre for Medical Humanities and the Department of History, Philosophy and Culture