“Scientific” racism arose in the eighteenth century during the expansion of mercantilism and the rise of imperialism. Theorizing and inquiry associated with slavery and conquest in part fueled the new studies. As Darwinism brought new interest in biological study, the scientific revolution demanded measurement and attention to method. Natural scientists, anatomists, biologists, physicians, neophyte anthropologists, ethnologists, social theorists, and even an occasional president of the United States turned their attention to race study and finding “scientific” evidence rendering dark people inferior. So-called proof of White superiority could justify social hierarchy This entry looks at the development and eventual discrediting of these ideas.

Early Thinking

In 1735, acclaimed biological taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus was among the first to classify human beings by race. His essay “Systema Naturae” claimed ...

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