There's No Scientific Basis for Race—It's a Made-Up Label
This story is part of The Race Issue, a special issue of National Geographic that explores how race defines, separates, and unites us. In the first half of the 19th century, one of America’s most prominent scientists was a doctor named Samuel Morton. Morton lived in Philadelphia, and he collected skulls. He wasn’t choosy about his suppliers. He accepted skulls scavenged from battlefields and snatched from catacombs. One of his most famous craniums belonged to an Irishman who’d been sent as a convict to Tasmania (and ultimately hanged for killing and eating other convicts). Morton believed that people could be divided into five races and that these represented separate acts of creation. “He had a lot of influence, particularly in the South,” says Paul Wolff Mitchell, an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania who is showing me the skull collection, now housed at the Penn Museum. Today Morton is known as the father of scientific racism. 1.
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