Morton's ranking of races by cranial capacity. Unconscious manipulation of data may be a scientific norm

Science. 1978 May 5;200(4341):503-9. doi: 10.1126/science.347573.


Samuel George Morton, self-styled objective empiricist, amassed the world's largest pre-Darwinian collection of human skulls. He measured their capacity and produced the results anticipated in an age when few Caucasians doubted their innate superiority: whites above Indians, blacks at the bottom. Morton published all his raw data, and it is shown here that his summary tables are based on a patchwork of apparently unconscious finagling. When his data are properly reinterpreted, all races have approximately equal capacities. Unconscious or dimly perceived finagling is probably endemic in science, since scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts, not automatons directed toward external truth.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Asian People
  • Black People
  • Cephalometry / history*
  • Female
  • History, 19th Century
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American
  • Indians, South American
  • Intelligence*
  • Male
  • Racial Groups*
  • Sex Factors
  • White People

Personal name as subject

  • S G Morton