Hooton in September 1954
|Born||November 20, 1887|
|Died||May 3, 1954
|Alma mater||University of Wisconsin–Madison|
|Known for||racial classification|
|Notable awards||Viking Fund Medal (1947)|
Earnest Albert Hooton (November 20, 1887 – May 3, 1954) was a U.S. physical anthropologist known for his work on racial classification and his popular writings such as the book Up From The Ape. Hooton sat on the Committee on the Negro, a group that "focused on the anatomy of blacks and reflected the racism of the time."
Hooton was born in Clemansville, Wisconsin. He was educated at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. After earning his BA there in 1907, he won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, which he deferred in order to continue his studies in the United States. He pursued graduate studies in Classics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he received an MA in 1908 and a Ph.D. in 1911 on "The Pre-Hellenistic Stage of the Evolution of the Literary Art at Rome" and then continued on to England. He found the classical scholarship at Oxford uninteresting, but quickly became interested in anthropology, which he studied with R.R. Marett, receiving a diploma in 1912. At the conclusion of his time in England, he was hired by Harvard University, where he taught until his death in 1954. During this time he was also Curator of Somatology at the nearby Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.
Hooton was known for combining a rigorous attention to scholarly detail combined with a candid and witty personal style. Henry Shapiro remembers that his lectures "were compounded of a strange, unpredictable mixture of strict attention to his duty to present the necessary facts... and of a delightful impatience with the restrictions of this role to which he seemed to react by launching into informal, speculative, and thoroughly entertaining and absorbing discussions of the subject at hand." As a result Hooton established Harvard as a center for physical anthropology in the United States and at the time of his death most physical anthropologists in the United States were former students or instructed by one.
Many of Hooton's research projects were indebted to his training in physical anthropology at a time when this field consisted most of anatomy and focused on physiological variation between individuals. One project that came to be known as 'Harvard Fanny Study', for instance, involved measuring buttock spread and buttock-knee lengths in order to design more comfortable chairs for the Pennsylvania railroad. A similar study of applied physical anthropology examined the restrictive shape of ball-turrets in military aircraft.
Hooton was an advanced primatologist for his time. If the great Latin playwright Terence said "Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto" ("I am a man; nothing about men is alien to me"), Hooton, following and correcting him, used to say: "Primas sum: primatum nihil a me alienum puto" ("I am a primate; nothing about primates is alien to me").
Hooton was also a public figure well known for popular volumes with titles like Up From the Ape, Young Man, You are Normal, and Apes, Men, and Morons. He was also a gifted cartoonist and wit, and like his contemporaries Ogden Nash and James Thurber he published occasional poems and drawings that were eventually collected and published.
Hooton died in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
He used comparative anatomy to divide humanity up into races — in Hooton's case, this involved describing the morphological characteristics of different "primary races" and the various "subtypes". In 1926, the American Association of Physical Anthropology and the National Research Council organized a Committee on the Negro, which focused on the anatomy of blacks. Among those appointed to the Committee on the Negro were Aleš Hrdlička, Earnest Hooton and eugenist Charles Davenport. In 1927, the committee endorsed a comparison of African babies with young apes. Ten years later, the group published findings in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology to "prove that the negro race is phylogenetically a closer approach to primitive man than the white race." Hooton played a key part in establishing the racial stereotypes about black athleticism and black criminality of his day in terms of an anthropological framework. Hooton was one of the first to attempt to develop mathematically rigorous criteria for race typology.
At the same time Hooton maintained that no scientific basis existed correlating mentality with racial variation. "...Each racial type runs the gamut from idiots and criminals to geniuses and statesmen. No type produces a majority of individuals from either end of the scale. While there may be specific racial abilities and disabilities, these have not yet been demonstrated. There are no racial monopolies either of human virtues or of vices." While advocating eugenic sterilizations of those deemed "insane, diseased and criminalistic", he emphasized there was no justification to correlate such "degeneracy", as he termed it, with race. Anthropologist Pat Shipman presents Hooton's work as representing a transition in anthropology away from its 19th-century stereotypes about race and its fixation over cranial measurements. In that context, she writes, Hooton maintained an "oversimplistic mode of thinking about human types and variability" while at the same time he moved to eliminate unfounded racial biases and pseudoscience. His remarks in a 1936 conference dealing with immigration, for example, included a ten point summary of the current scientific consensus about race which, in retrospect, parallel the points raised ten years later in UNESCO's landmark The Race Question.
- American Anthropological Association. "Eugenics and Physical Anthropology." 2007. August 7, 2007.
- Shapiro, Harry L. (18 June 1954). "Earnest A. Hooton: 1887—1954". Science 119 (3103): 861–2. doi:10.1126/science.119.3103.861.
- Krogman, Wilton M. (October 1976). "Fifty Years of Physical Anthropology: The Men, the Material, the Concepts, the Methods". Annual Review of Anthropology 5 (1–15): 10. doi:10.1146/annurev.an.05.100176.000245.
- Reuter, Claus (2000). Development of Aircraft Turrets in the AAF: 1917–1944. Sr Research & Pub. pp. 132–4. ISBN 9781894643085.
- Hooton, Earnest Albert: "The Importance of Primate Studies in Anthropology" in GAVAN, James A. (ed.): The Non-Human Primates and Human Evolution. In Memory of Earnest Albert Hooton (1887-1954),Wayne University Press, 1955, pp.1-10
- Shipman, Pat (2002). The Evolution of Racism: Human Differences and the Use and Abuse of Science. Harvard University Press. pp. 176–7. ISBN 9780674008625.
- Hooton, Earnest A (29 May 1936). "Plain Statements About Race". Science 83 (2161): 513. doi:10.1126/science.83.2161.511.
- Wright, Richard A. Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. "Encyclopedia of Criminality." 2004. August 4, 2007. 
Works by Hooton
- Hooton, Earnest Albert, 1887-1954. Papers of Earnest A. Hooton, 1926-1954 (inclusive) : A Finding Aid (995-1 ) Harvard University Library: Peabody Museum Archives 1995 and 2007. Call No: 995-1. 28 document boxes.
- Africana. I-5 co-editor (1917) 'recording the habits of foul or barbarous savages' pub. Peabody Museum. From Internet Archive.
Works about Hooton
- Birdsell, Joseph 1987. Some reflections on fifty years in biological anthropology in Annual Reviews of Anthropology 16(1):1-12.
- Krogman, Wilton 1976. Fifty years of physical anthropology: the men, the materials, the concepts, and the methods in Annual Reviews of Anthropology 5:1-14.
- Shapiro, H. 1954. Earnest Albert Hooton, 1887-1954 (obituary) in American Anthropologist 56(6): 1081-1084
- Garn, Stanley and Giles, Eugene. 1995. Earnest Albert Hooton, November 20, 1887 - May 3, 1954. Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America v. 68 167-180.
- Melear, K.B. The Criminological Theory of Earnest A. Hooton. 'Summer 1998'. Florida State University: Criminology
- American Association of Physical Anthropologists: The Earnest Albert Hooton Prize. The page includes a selected list of Hooton's publications.
- National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir