Boyd Defines Human “Races” by Blood Groups Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

William Clouser Boyd produced evidence based on blood groups and genetic principles that revolutionized scientific perceptions of race and refuted racist concepts of “pure” or “superior” races.

Summary of Event

Although individual scientists and philosophers have noted the great variation in physical characteristics and culture among humans since the beginnings of recorded history, it was only after the age of exploration and the Enlightenment that modern concepts of race began to emerge. Toward the end of the eighteenth century, J. F. Blumenbach Blumenbach, J. F. proposed that the human species includes five distinct “races”—the white, yellow, black, Malayan, and American Indian. Blumenbach based his classification system primarily on cranial measurements, hair texture, stature, and skin color. Therefore, the modern science of physical anthropology Anthropology;physical Physical anthropology was born. [kw]Boyd Defines Human “Races” by Blood Groups (1950) [kw]Human “Races” by Blood Groups, Boyd Defines (1950)[Human Races by Blood Groups, Boyd Defines] [kw]"Races" by Blood Groups, Boyd Defines Human (1950)[Races by Blood Groups, Boyd Defines Human] [kw]Blood Groups, Boyd Defines Human “Races” by (1950) Race, blood-group theory of[Race, blood group theory of] Genetics and the Races of Man (Boyd) Blood groups and race Genetics;race Race, blood-group theory of[Race, blood group theory of] Genetics and the Races of Man (Boyd) Blood groups and race Genetics;race [g]North America;1950: Boyd Defines Human “Races” by Blood Groups[03110] [g]United States;1950: Boyd Defines Human “Races” by Blood Groups[03110] [c]Genetics;1950: Boyd Defines Human “Races” by Blood Groups[03110] [c]Anthropology;1950: Boyd Defines Human “Races” by Blood Groups[03110] [c]Science and technology;1950: Boyd Defines Human “Races” by Blood Groups[03110] Boyd, William Clouser

For the next 150 years, physical anthropologists concentrated primarily on measurements of human types in their investigations of racial diversity. This one-dimensional approach led to gross oversimplifications in understanding the evolution of modern races of humankind. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, popular accounts of the findings of physical anthropologists led to the development of modern racism. Racial and ethnic discrimination

A number of writers in the mid-nineteenth century began to argue that some races were more “advanced” than others in technological development and in the complexity of their social institutions. The advocates of Darwinian theories of evolution argued that some races were clearly more highly evolved than others, while some champions of creation, as related in the Bible, maintained that God had created some races to be subservient to others. This latter argument was especially popular in the southern United States as a justification for slavery, but was largely unknown in centuries of earlier Christian belief.

Joseph-Arthur Gobineau Gobineau, Joseph-Arthur argued for the superiority of the “white” race over all others in his four-volume essay, Essai sur l’inégalité des races humaines Essai sur l’inégalité des races humaines (Gobineau) (an essay on the inequality of human races; 1853-1855). He maintained further that one branch of the white race—the “Aryans”—were the only peoples capable of creating true civilization. Gobineau identified the “Teutons” (Germans) as being the purest modern representatives of the original Aryan race. Englishman Houston Stewart Chamberlain Chamberlain, Houston Stewart , who spent most of his life in Germany, published Die Grundlagen des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (Chamberlain) (Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, 1911) in 1899, which elaborated and refined the ideas first put forward by Gobineau. Adolf Hitler later acknowledged that his own racist philosophy was shaped by Chamberlain’s book.

In addition to denigrating nonwhite races, racists around the world singled out Jews not only as an inferior race but also as parasites who destroyed civilizations created by Aryans. Modern anti-Semitism, or Judeophobia, may be said to have originated with the publication of Der Sieg des Judenthums über das Germanenthum Sieg des Judenthums über das Germanenthum, Der (Marr) (the victory of Judaism over Germanism) by Wilhelm Marr Marr, Wilhelm in Germany in 1873. Marr was one of the first Europeans to advance the thesis, echoed in countless subsequent works, that Jews have infected Western civilization with a spirit of materialism that has robbed it of its spirituality and humanity and will ultimately lead to its destruction. Judeophobia, along with racist ideas directed against peoples of color of the world, reached a crescendo in the 1920’s and was finally translated into political action in Germany in the 1930’s.

Physical anthropologists, most of whom realized the invalidity of racist doctrines, made only feeble and ineffective efforts to refute prevailing popular attitudes toward race before World War II. After Hitler came to power in 1933, anthropologists in Germany were, along with scientists in all other disciplines, forced to “coordinate” their discipline with national socialist ideology. Consequently, German anthropologists concerned themselves between 1933 and 1945 with scientifically proving the superiority of the Aryan race and the inferiority of the Jews.

It was only after the war that anthropologists developed the will and the tools to discredit modern popular concepts of race. Although medical scientists had been aware for many years prior to 1939 that human blood may be divided into four broad types (A, B, O, and AB) and that individuals with widely varying physical characteristics may share the same type of blood, it was only after 1945 that sufficient data became available to anthropologists to begin exploring systematically the blood-group phenomenon as a key to human evolution and the nature of human races. One of the first scientific works to adopt this new methodology and redefine concepts of race was William Clouser Boyd’s Genetics and the Races of Man (1950).

Boyd revolutionized concepts of race and provided a powerful new tool for understanding human evolution by applying the principles of genetics worked out by Gregor Johann Mendel Mendel, Gregor Johann in the nineteenth century to data concerning the distribution of human blood types. Mendel, experimenting with the hybridization of plants, discovered certain “laws” concerning the passing along of physical characteristics from one generation to the next. Using Mendel’s principles, Boyd showed that the concept of a “pure” race of humankind is absurd and that the physical measurements of such characteristics as skull shape and cranial capacity used by racists to prove their contentions are meaningless. Boyd showed that although the inhabitants of some areas of the world have higher concentrations of one or the other of the major blood types, all blood types are present among the human populations of all areas of the world, regardless of color, hair texture, stature, shape or size of the skull, and the like. He showed also that there must have been an almost constant exchange of genes between all human populations since before the time that humans became sapient, despite the frequent isolation of some breeding populations for extended periods.

Based on his findings, Boyd proposed the subdivision of humanity into six races, or subtypes: early European, modern European, African, Asiatic, American Indian, and Australoid (he later refined this to thirteen human blood types, but he stopped short of calling them races). Boyd emphasized that the distribution of all blood types in all these races shows clearly that there are no pure races. He also emphasized that there is no scientific test that can determine the superiority or inferiority of any race vis-à-vis the other races.


Boyd’s study of human blood groups and genetics had two important results. One result affected social policy and social attitudes, the other involved the advancement of science.

Perhaps the most important outcome of Boyd’s data was its influence on the movement within the social sciences to discredit racial prejudice and political and social discrimination based on race. Beginning during World War II, anthropologists, sociologists, and historians started a systematic campaign to educate the public about race. Many social scientists considered it their duty to address problems of racial discord, since it had played an important role in the origins of the war. One of the first of these efforts was a pamphlet published by the Public Affairs Committee of New York City entitled The Races of Mankind Races of Mankind, The (Benedict and Weltfish) (1943), by Ruth Benedict Benedict, Ruth and Gene Weltfish Weltfish, Gene , both of Columbia University. The pamphlet, which argued for the basic equality of people regardless of race, encountered a storm of controversy and was banned Censorship;United States eventually from distribution to the armed forces by members of the United States government.

Social scientists in other disciplines who published similar works met with the same sort of resistance because of the ingrained attitudes concerning race throughout society. Even in 1942, the publication of Ashley Montagu’s Montagu, Ashley Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race, Man’s Most Dangerous Myth (Montagu)[Mans Most Dangerous Myth] which pointed out the dangers to society brought on by racism, made little impact on the general public.

Boyd’s research provided the first hard evidence to support the contentions of those who found racial prejudice and discrimination unacceptable. Social scientists from many disciplines cited Boyd’s study as evidence in their own books attempting to refute racial myths. A good example is historian Kenneth Stampp’s The Peculiar Institution Peculiar Institution, The (Stampp) (1956), which attacked, in particular, stereotypes of American blacks and the prejudice directed against them.

Furthermore, the new wave toward racial equality almost certainly was a major factor in the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection in 1954 of state laws that had established segregation in much of the United States for more than seventy years and in the sweeping civil rights legislation of the 1960’s. Boyd’s work was an integral part of that new wave.

Boyd’s findings concerning human blood type distribution had another important consequence: Paleoanthropology Paleoanthropology is the science that studies early forms of humans and the evolution of the human species. Prior to studies concerning blood types, paleoanthropologists had little on which to base their investigations other than scanty fossil remains of early hominids. Boyd’s application of genetic principles to human evolution provided students of the development of modern humans with a powerful new tool, which has led to a much more sophisticated understanding of human origins and evolution. Race, blood-group theory of[Race, blood group theory of] Genetics and the Races of Man (Boyd) Blood groups and race Genetics;race

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Benedict, Ruth. Race: Science and Politics. Foreword by Margaret Mead. New York: Viking Press, 1940. One of the earliest American efforts to discredit prevailing myths concerning racial superiority. Although its arguments are cogent and well reasoned, the original edition lacked any sort of hard evidence to support its claims of racial equality. Later editions contained Boyd’s findings concerning human blood types. Also included is the text of the pamphlet The Races of Mankind.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Boyd, William Clouser. Genetics and the Races of Man: An Introduction to Modern Physical Anthropology. Boston: Little, Brown, 1950. Prepared and used as a textbook in physical anthropology, this book was the first presentation to a mass audience of Boyd’s findings. Readable by nonspecialists. Contains maps and graphs illustrating the distribution of human blood types.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Coon, Carleton S. The Origin of Races. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962. Shows the ways in which blood type distribution has been used by paleoanthropologists in untangling the path of human evolution. Also demonstrates that the older methodology employed by physical anthropologists (physical measurements) has not disappeared from the field. Contains considerable technical terminology, but still understandable and enjoyable for general readers. Contains many maps, graphs, and photographs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Coon, Carleton S., with Edward E. Hunt, Jr. The Living Races of Man. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965. An extensive and comprehensive effort to categorize the current races of humans. Makes extensive use of data concerning the distribution of human blood types and acknowledges a debt to Boyd. Contains numerous photographs, maps, and graphs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jackson, John P., Jr., and Nadine M. Weidman. Race, Racism, and Science: Social Impact and Interaction. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Dozens of chapters examine the social history of race, race awareness, racism, human evolution, and other topics. Bibliography, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lawler, Sylvia D., and L. J. Lawler. Human Blood Groups and Inheritance. 1951. 3d ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1971. Written as a supplementary textbook for first-year biology students to acquaint them with the blood types known at the time Boyd produced his major work. Suitable for general readers.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Marks, Jonathan. Human Biodiversity: Genes, Race, and History. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1995. A comprehensive resource in physical anthropology, providing a history of ideas on genetics and race and the science of genetics.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mourant, A. E. Blood Relations: Blood Groups and Anthropology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. Contains a chapter on elementary genetics that will inform readers without a background in science as to the mechanics of that discipline. Contains a comprehensive examination of the distribution of human blood types in all regions of the world. Includes maps and graphs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Snyder, Laurence H. Blood Groups. Minneapolis, Minn.: Burgess, 1973. A technical account of how blood types are inherited and the anthropological meaning of the current distribution of blood types. Any person who wishes to understand the problems concerned with identifying and classifying human populations by blood types will profit greatly from this book.

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