Henry Harpending

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Henry Harpending
Henry Cosad Harpending

January 13, 1944 (1944-01-13)
DiedApril 3, 2016(2016-04-03) (aged 72)
ResidenceSalt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
Alma materHamilton College
Harvard University
Known forThe 10,000 Year Explosion
Theory of Ashkenazi Intelligence
Scientific career
Population genetics
InstitutionsUniversity of Utah
Pennsylvania State University
University of New Mexico
Thesis!Kung hunter-gatherer population structure. (1971)
Doctoral advisorWilliam W. Howells

Henry Cosad Harpending (January 13, 1944 – April 3, 2016) was an American anthropologist, geneticist and author. He was distinguished professor at the University of Utah.[1][2] Harpending received his A.B. degree from Hamilton College and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1972.[2] He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences.[3]


Harpending studied genetic and morphometric variation within and between human populations with mathematical models, examining hypotheses such as population growth, divergence, and gene flow. He had over 120 publications in top outlets in his field.[4]

In 1973, Harpending was one the people involved in starting the Kalahari People's Fund. The KPF was an outgrowth of the multidisciplinary Harvard Kalahari Research Group led by Richard Lee and Irven DeVore. Newsweek described the KPF as one of the first people's advocacy organizations in the US with professional anthropological expertise behind it.[5]

He died at the age of 72 on April 3, 2016.[6][7]

Research on !Kung and Herero[edit]

Harpending did extensive fieldwork in Southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia) and spoke the !Kung language fluently.[3][8]:24 The !Kung were extensively studied by many US anthropologists because they were one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer groups to avoid destruction or assimilation.[9] His field work was the basis of the monograph The Structure of an African Pastoralist Community, with Renee Pennington.[10][4]

Harpending also did extensive fieldwork on the Herero people, a cattle-herding group in the Botswana area. Herero are locally known for "their traditionalism, their wealth in cattle and their dominating older women". Harpending's previous experience with the !Kung people was useful because many Herero are bilingual in !Kung. Harpending had previous contact with Herero from earlier research trips.[8]:xxii

The 10,000 Year Explosion[edit]

In The 10,000 Year Explosion, which he co-authored with Gregory Cochran, Harpending suggests a common belief that human genetic adaptation stopped 40,000 years ago is incorrect and that humans evolved increasingly rapidly in response to the new challenges presented by agriculture and civilization. The result was accelerating evolution which has varied according to new niches or environments that particular populations inhabit.

The final chapter of The 10,000 Year Explosion expands on their paper from the Journal of Biosocial Science[11] on the issue of Ashkenazi Jewish intelligence. Harpending and Cochran argue the cause of the claim of Ashkenazim having higher mean verbal and mathematical intelligence than other ethnic groups (as well as having a relatively high number of genetic diseases, such as Tay–Sachs disease, Canavan disease, Niemann–Pick disease, Gaucher's disease, familial dysautonomia, Bloom syndrome, Fanconi anemia, cystic fibrosis and mucolipidosis IV) is due to the historically isolated population of Jews in Europe.[12]

Criticism of his views on race[edit]

The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented Harpending's works and statements on race, noting his association with white supremacist groups and referring to his work as an attempt to perpetuate scientific racism. The SPLC notes he attributed stereotypes of different human populations to genetic differences, often saying that Africans, Papua New Guineans, and "Baltimore"[13] (African-Americans) possess the same genetic temperamental predispositions which he said are characterized by "violence, laziness, and a preference for 'mating instead of parenting'",[14] while Europeans and northern Asians "have evolved higher intelligence and 'tend to be more disciplined than people who take life for granted'";[14] he favored mass deportation of illegal immigrants from the United States using FEMA camps as part of the process and did not believe that more money should be spent on education in the United States because he thought the race-based disparities are based on genetics rather than disparities in funding; gave conferences at what the SPLC says are white supremacist groups; and supported eugenics, crediting it in the form of the death penalty for the "genetic pacification" of the western European population.[13]



  • Renee Pennington; Henry Harpending (1993). The Structure of an African Pastoralist Community: Demography, History, and Ecology of the Ngamiland Herero. Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-852286-7.
  • Jennie Keith; Christine L. Fry; Anthony P. Glascock; Charlotte Ikels; Jeanette Dickerson-Putman; Henry C. Harpending; Patricia Draper (22 September 1994). The Aging Experience: Diversity and Commonality Across Cultures. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1-4522-5484-5.
  • Gregory Cochran; Henry Harpending (2009). The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. Basic Books. ISBN 0-4650-0221-8.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Henry C. Harpending – Biography – Faculty Profile – The University of Utah". faculty.utah.edu. Archived from the original on October 31, 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  2. ^ a b American Men & Women of Science: A Biographical Directory of Today's Leaders in Physical, Biological and Related Sciences. Detroit, Michigan: Gale. 2009. p. 509. ISBN 1-4144-3303-4.
  3. ^ a b "Henry Harpending". nasonline.org. National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on 18 October 2015. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  4. ^ a b "HENRY COSAD HARPENDING Obituary". Deseret News. 16 Oct 2016.
  5. ^ Biesele, Megan (2003). "The Kalahari Peoples Fund: Activist Legacy of the Harvard Kalahari Research Group". Anthropologica. 45 (1): 79. doi:10.2307/25606115. ISSN 0003-5459.
  6. ^ "Henry Harpending". Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  7. ^ West Hunter blog – Henry Harpending
  8. ^ a b Keith, Jennie (1994). The Aging experience diversity and commonality across cultures. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. ISBN 1-4522-5484-2. The Herero research team was headed by Henry Harpending. His American research assistant was Renee Pennington, then a graduate student in anthropology at Penn State University. Harpending spoke !Kung because of his previous fieldwork in the area, and many Herero speak !Kung.
  9. ^ Kolata, Gina Bari (1981). "!Kung Bushmen Join South African Army". Science. 211 (4482): 562–564. doi:10.2307/1685565. JSTOR 1685565.
  10. ^ Renee Pennington; Henry Harpending (1993). The Structure of an African Pastoralist Community: Demography, History, and Ecology of the Ngamiland Herero. Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-852286-7.
  11. ^ G. Cochran, J. Hardy, H. Harpending. "Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence" Archived 2013-09-11 at the Wayback Machine, Journal of Biosocial Science 38 (5), pp. 659–693 (2006).
  12. ^ "Henry Harpending." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Biography In Context. Web. 1 Sept. 2013.
  13. ^ a b Henry Harpending, quoted in "Henry Harpending". Extremist Files. Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 2016-09-17.
  14. ^ a b Double quotes: SPLC; single quotes: Henry Harpending; both quoted in "Henry Harpending". Extremist Files. Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 2016-09-17.

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