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Quadrumana and Bimana form an obsolete division of the primates: the Quadrumana are primates with four hands (two attached to the arms and two attached to the legs), and the Bimana are those with two hands and two feet. The attempted division of "Quadrumana" from "Bimana" forms a stage in the long campaign to find a secure way of distinguishing Homo sapiens from the rest of the great apes, a distinction that was culturally essential.[according to whom?]

Quadrumana is Latin for "four-handed ones", which is a term used for apes since they do not have feet attached to their legs as humans do, but instead have hands, as both pairs of hands look almost alike (with the exception of the orangutan, whose hands look exactly the same) and operate exactly like hands.

Bimana is Latin for "two-handed ones", which is a term used for humans, as humans have only two hands, but have two feet which apes do not.

The division was proposed by Johann Friedrich Blumenbach in the first edition of his Manual of Natural History (1779) and taken up by other naturalists, most notably Georges Cuvier.[1] Some elevated the distinction to the level of an order.

However, the many affinities between humans and other primates – and especially the great apes – made it clear that the distinction made no scientific sense. In 1863, however, Thomas Henry Huxley in his Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature demonstrated that the higher apes might fairly be included in Bimana.[2] Charles Darwin wrote, in The Descent of Man (1871):


  1. ^ Chisholm 1911.
  2. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bimana". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 946. 

External links[edit]

  • Excerpts from the Royal Society Yearbook, 1861, give the context of urgent discussions of features distinguishing humans from "Quadrumana", in the wake of Darwin's Origin of the Species
  • Carter Blake, in Edinburgh Review (April 1863): Use of "Quadrumana" in an essay beginning "The disputes with regard to the precise affinity and relations of man to the lower animals have now excited so much acrimony, and have assumed such proportions, that we feel at length compelled to offer an opinion upon this controversy."