Carleton Stevens Coon (June 23, 1904 – June 3, 1981) was an American
physical anthropologist, Professor of
Anthropology at the University
of Pennsylvania, lecturer and professor at Harvard University, and
president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.
2 Racial theories
2.1 Study of the Caucasoid race
2.2 Mediterranean race
2.3 Racial origins
2.4 Races in the Indian Sub-Continent
5.2 Further reading
6 External links
Carleton Coon was born in Wakefield, Massachusetts, to a Cornish
American family. He developed an interest in prehistory, and
attended Phillips Academy, Andover. Coon matriculated to Harvard
University, where he was attracted to the relatively new field of
Earnest Hooton and he graduated magna cum laude in
1925. He became the Curator of Ethnology at the University Museum of
Philadelphia. Coon continued with coursework at Harvard. He
conducted fieldwork in the
Rif area of
Morocco in 1925, which was
politically unsettled after a rebellion of the local populace against
the Spanish. He earned his Ph.D. in 1928 and returned to Harvard as
a lecturer and later a professor. Coon's interest was in attempting to
use Darwin's theory of natural selection to explain the differing
physical characteristics of races. Coon studied
Albanians from 1920 to
1930; he traveled to
Ethiopia in 1933; and in Arabia, North Africa and
the Balkans, he worked on sites from 1925 to 1939, where he discovered
Neanderthal in 1939. Coon rewrote William Z. Ripley's 1899 The Races
of Europe in 1939.
Coon wrote widely for a general audience like his mentor Earnest
Hooton. Coon published The Riffians, Flesh of the Wild Ox, Measuring
Ethiopia, and A North Africa Story: The Anthropologist as OSS Agent. A
North Africa Story was an account of his work in North Africa during
World War II, which involved espionage and the smuggling of arms to
French resistance groups in German-occupied
Morocco under the guise of
anthropological fieldwork. During that time, Coon was affiliated with
the United States Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner to the
Central Intelligence Agency.
Coon left Harvard to take up a position as Professor of Anthropology
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania in 1948, which had an excellent
museum. Throughout the 1950s he produced academic papers, as well as
many popular books for the general reader, the most notable being The
Story of Man (1954).
Coon did photography work for the United States Air Force from
1954-1957. He photographed areas where US planes might be attacked.
This led him to travel throughout Korea, Ceylon, India, Pakistan,
Saudi Arabia, Japan, Taiwan, Nepal, Sikkim, and the Philippines.
Coon published The Origin of Races in 1962. In its "Introduction" he
described the book as part of the outcome of his project he conceived
(in light of his work on The Races of Europe) around the end of 1956,
for a work to be titled along the lines of Races of the World. He said
that since 1959 he had proceeded with the intention to follow The
Origin of Races with a sequel, so the two would jointly fulfill the
goals of the original project. (He indeed published The Living
Races of Man in 1965.) The book asserted that the human species
divided into five races before it had evolved into Homo sapiens.
Further, he suggested that the races evolved into
Homo sapiens at
different times. It was not well received. The field of
anthropology was moving rapidly from theories of race typology, and
The Origin of Races was widely castigated by his peers in anthropology
as supporting racist ideas with outmoded theory and notions which had
long since been repudiated by modern science. One of his harshest
critics, Theodore Dobzhansky, scorned it as providing "grist for
He continued to write and defend his work, publishing two volumes of
memoirs in 1980 and 1981.
He died on June 3, 1981, in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Distribution of the races after the Pleistocene according to Carleton
Coon concluded that sometimes different racial types annihilated other
types, while in other instances warfare and/or settlement led to the
partial displacement of racial types. He asserted that Europe was the
refined product of a long history of racial progression. He also
posited that historically "different strains in one population have
showed differential survival values and often one has reemerged at the
expense of others (in Europeans)", in The Races of Europe, The White
Race and the New World (1939).
Coon suggested that the "maximum survival" of the European racial type
was increased by the replacement of the indigenous peoples of the New
World. He stated the history of the White race to have involved
"racial survivals" of White subraces.
Study of the Caucasoid race
In his book The Races of Europe, The White Race and the New World
(1939), Coon used the term "Caucasoid" and "White race" synonymously,
as had become common in the United States, although not elsewhere.
This is in contrast to many uses of the term "White race", which may
tend to reserve the designation for Caucasoid peoples from Europe and
their descendants. In his introduction, Coon stated his interest was
"the somatic character of peoples belonging to the white race". His
first chapter was entitled, "Introduction to the Historical Study of
the White Race", and his last chapter, "The White Race and the New
Coon considered the European racial type to be a sub-race of the
Caucasoid race, one that warranted more study. In other sections of
The Races of Europe, he mentioned people to be "European in racial
type" and having a "European racial element."
Coon suggested that the study of some major versions of European
racial types was sadly lacking compared with other types, writing,
For many years physical anthropologists have found it more amusing to
travel to distant lands and to measure small remnants of little known
or romantic peoples than to tackle the drudgery of a systematic study
of their own compatriots. For that reason, sections in the present
book that deal with the Lapps, the Arabs, the Berbers, the Tajiks, and
Ionians may appear more fully and more lucidly treated than those
that deal with the French, the Hungarians, the Czechs, or the English.
What is needed more than anything else in this respect is a
thoroughgoing study of the inhabitants of the principal and most
powerful nations of Europe.
Summary of The Races of Europe
Coon's 1939 book concluded the following:
Caucasian race is of dual origin consisting of Upper Paleolithic
Homo sapiens and Neanderthals) types and Mediterranean
(purely sapiens) types.
Upper Paleolithic peoples are the truly indigenous peoples of
Mediterraneans invaded Europe in large numbers during the Neolithic
period and settled there.
The racial situation in Europe today may be explained as a mixture of
Upper Paleolithic survivors and Mediterraneans.
Upper Paleolithic survivors and Mediterraneans mix, then
occurs the process of dinarization, which produces a hybrid with
Caucasian race encompasses the regions of Europe, Central Asia,
South Asia, the Near East, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa.
Nordic race is part of the Mediterranean racial stock, being a
mixture of Corded and Danubian Mediterraneans.
According to Carleton Coon the "homeland and cradle" of the
Mediterranean race is in the area from
Morocco to Afghanistan.
Coon argued that smaller Mediterraneans traveled by land from the
Mediterranean basin north into Europe in the
Mesolithic era. Taller
Mediterraneans (Atlanto-Mediterraneans) were Neolithic seafarers who
sailed in reed-type boats and colonized the Mediterranean basin from a
Near Eastern origin.
While often characterized by dark brown hair, dark eyes and robust
features, he stressed that Mediterraneans skin is, as a rule, some
shade of white from pink to light brown, hair is usually black or dark
brown but his whiskers may reveal a few strands of red of even blond,
and blond hair is an exception but can be found, and a wide range of
eye color can be found.
Main article: Multiregional origin of modern humans
Coon first modified Franz Weidenreich's Polycentric (or multiregional)
theory of the origin of races. The Weidenreich Theory states that
human races have evolved independently in the Old World from Homo
Homo sapiens sapiens, while at the same time there was gene
flow between the various populations. Coon held a similar belief that
modern humans, Homo sapiens, arose separately in five different places
from Homo erectus, "as each subspecies, living in its own territory,
passed a critical threshold from a more brutal to a more sapient
state", but unlike Weidenreich stressed gene flow far less.
Coon's modified form of the Weidenreich Theory is sometimes referred
to as the Candelabra Hypothesis. A misunderstanding however has led
some to believe that Coon supported parallel evolution or polygenism;
this is not true since Coon's evolution model still allows for
gene-flow, although he did not stress it.
In his 1962 book, The Origin of Races, Coon theorized that some races
Homo sapiens stage in evolution before others, resulting
in the higher degree of civilization among some races. He had
continued his theory of five races. He considered both what he called
Mongoloid race and the
Caucasoid race had individuals who had
adapted to crowding through evolution of the endocrine system, which
made them more successful in the modern world of civilization. This
can be found on pages 108-109 of The Origin of Races. In his book Coon
contrasted a picture of an
Indigenous Australian with one of a Chinese
professor. His caption "The Alpha and the Omega" was used to
demonstrate his research that brain size was positively correlated
Wherever Homo arose, and Africa is at present the most likely
continent, he soon dispersed, in a very primitive form, throughout the
warm regions of the Old World....If Africa was the cradle of mankind,
it was only an indifferent kindergarten. Europe and Asia were our
By this he meant that the Caucasoid and
Mongoloid races had evolved
more in their separate areas after they had left Africa in a primitive
form. He also believed, "The earliest
Homo sapiens known, as
represented by several examples from Europe and Africa, was an
ancestral long-headed white man of short stature and moderately great
brain size." Further, he wrote, "The negro group probably evolved
parallel to the white strain." (The Races of Europe, Chapter II).
Races in the Indian Sub-Continent
Coon's understanding of racial typology and diversity within the
Indian sub-continent changed over time. In The Races of Europe, he
regarded the so-called "Veddoids" of India ("tribal" Indians, or
"Adivasi") as closely related to other peoples in the South-Pacific
("Australoids"), and he also believed that this supposed human lineage
(the "Australoids") was an important genetic substratum in Southern
India. As for the north of the sub-continent, it was an extension of
the Caucasoid range. By the time Coon coauthored The Living Races
of Man, he thought that India's
Adivasis were an ancient
Caucasoid-Australoid mix who tended to be more Caucasoid than
Australoid (with great variability), that the
Dravidian peoples of
Southern India were simply Caucasoid, and that the north of the
sub-continent was also Caucasoid. In short, the Indian sub-continent
(North and South) is "the easternmost outpost of the Caucasoid racial
region". Underlying all of this was Coon's typological view of
human history and biological variation, a way of thinking that is not
taken seriously today by most
anthropologists/biologists. Like all world regions, it
is now understood by most scientists that the Indian sub-continent
bleeds genetically into neighboring regions, being structured fluidly
and continuously in a loose pattern of isolation-by-distance.
Nevertheless, Coon's views are of historical interest, and are part of
a long line of western anthropology which has sought to describe and
conceptualize biological diversity in the sub-continent.
Coon's published magnum opus, The Origin of Races (1962), received
mixed reactions from scientists of the era.
Ernst Mayr praised the work for its synthesis as having an
"invigorating freshness that will reinforce the current revitalization
of physical anthropology".
A book review by
Stanley Marion Garn
Stanley Marion Garn criticised Coon's parallel view
of the origin of the races with little gene flow but praised the work
for its racial taxonomy and concluded: "an overall favorable report on
the now famous Origin of Races".
Sherwood Washburn and
Ashley Montagu were heavily influenced by the
modern synthesis in biology and population genetics. In addition, they
were influenced by Franz Boas, who had moved away from typological
racial thinking. Rather than supporting Coon's theories, they and
other contemporary researchers viewed the human species as a
continuous serial progression of populations and heavily criticised
Coon's Origin of Races.
The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and changing social attitudes
challenged racial theories like Coon's that had been used by
segregationists to justify discrimination and depriving people of
civil rights. In 1961 non-fiction writer
Carleton Putnam published
Race and Reason: A Yankee View, a popular theory of racial
segregation. A special session of the American Association of Physical
Anthropologists voted to censure Putnam's book. Coon, who was then the
president of the association, and was present at the meeting, asked
how many of the participants had actually read the book; only one hand
was raised in response. Coon resigned in protest, criticizing the
meeting for representing scientific irresponsibility and arguing
its actions violated free speech.
Putnam had written,
In the next 500,000,000,000 years I would be quite prepared to concede
the possibility the Negro may, through normal processes of mutation
and natural selection within his own race, eventually overtake and
even surpass the white race.... When the Negro has bred out his
limitations over hundreds, or thousands, of years, it will be time
enough to consider absorbing him in any such massive doses as would be
involved in the South today.(p.53)
The mulatto who was bent on making the nation mulatto was the real
danger. His alliance with the white equalitarian often combined men
who had nothing in common save a belief that they had a grudge against
society. They regarded every Southerner who sensed the genetic truth
as a bigot.... Here were the men who needed to be reminded of the debt
the Negro owed to white civilization. (p.117)
William W. Howells writing in a 1989 article, noted that Coon's
research is "still regarded as a valuable source of data".
In 2001, John P. Jackson, Jr. researched Coon's papers to review the
controversy around the reception of The Origin of Races, stating in
the article abstract
Segregationists in the United States used Coon’s work as proof that
African Americans were "junior" to white Americans, and thus unfit for
full participation in American society. The paper examines the
interactions among Coon, segregationist Carleton Putnam, geneticist
Theodosius Dobzhansky, and anthropologist Sherwood Washburn. The paper
concludes that Coon actively aided the segregationist cause in
violation of his own standards for scientific objectivity.
Jackson found in the archived Coon papers records of repeated efforts
by Coon to aid Putnam's efforts to provide intellectual support to the
ongoing resistance to racial integration but cautioned Putnam against
statements that could identify Coon as an active ally. (Jackson also
noted that both men had become aware that they had General Israel
Putnam as a common ancestor, making them (at least distant) cousins,
but Jackson indicated neither when either learned of the family
relationship nor whether they had a more recent common ancestor.)
Alan H. Goodman (2000) has noted Coon's main legacy was not his
"separate evolution of races (Coon 1962)," but his "molding of race
into the new physical anthropology of adaptive and evolutionary
processes (Coon et al. 1950)," since he attempted to "unify a
typological model of human variation with an evolutionary perspective
and explained racial differences with adaptivist arguments."
The Origin of Races (1962)
The Story of Man (1954)
The Races of Europe (1939)
Caravan: the Story of the Middle East (1958)
Races: A Study of the Problems of Race Formation in Man
The Hunting Peoples
Anthropology A to Z (1963)
Living Races of Man (1965)
Seven Caves: Archaeological Exploration in the Middle East
Mountains of Giants: A Racial and Cultural Study of the North Albanian
Yengema Cave Report (his work in Sierra Leone)
Racial Adaptations (1982)
Fiction and Memoir:
Flesh of the Wild Ox (1932)
The Riffian (1933)
A North Africa Story: Story of an Anthropologist as OSS Agent (1980)
Adventures and Discoveries: The Autobiography of Carleton S. Coon
^ "Race" Relations: Montagu, Dobzhansky, Coon, and the Divergence of
Race Concepts Archived July 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
^ Rowse, A.L. The Cousin Jacks, The Cornish in America
^ Coon, Carleton S. (1962). The Origins of Races. New York: Alfred A.
^ Howells, H. W. (1989). Carleton Stevens Coon 1904—1981: A
Biographical Memoir (PDF). Washington D.C.: National Academy of
^ The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2005.
^ Carleton S. Coon, The Origin of Races, Knopf, 1962, p. vii
^ Harold M. Schmeck Jr. (June 6, 1981). "
Carleton S. Coon
Carleton S. Coon Is Dead at
76: Pioneer in Social Anthropology". New York Times.
^ Shipman, Pat (2002). The Evolution of Racism: Human Differences and
the Use and Abuse of Science.
Harvard University Press. p. 207.
^ National Anthropological Archives, "Coon, Carleton Stevens
(1904-1981), Papers" Archived April 1, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
^ a b c d The Races of Europe by Carleton Coon 1939 Archived February
25, 2005, at
Archive.is (Hosted by the Society for Nordish Physical
^ The Races of Europe, Chapter II, Section 12 Archived April 22, 2005,
^ The Races of Europe, Chapter XIII, Section 2 Archived May 11, 2006,
^ The Races of Europe, Chapter 7, Section 2 Archived May 20, 2005, at
^ a b "Our area, from
Morocco to Afghanistan, is the homeland and
cradle of the Mediterranean race. Mediterraneans are found also in
Spain, Portugal, most of Italy, Greece and the Mediterranean islands,
and in all these places, as in the Middle East, they form the major
genetic element in the local populations. In a dark-skinned and
finer-boned form they are also found as the major population element
in Pakistan and northern India ... The Mediterranean race, then, is
indigenous to, and the principal element in, the Middle East, and the
greatest concentration of a highly evolved Mediterranean type falls
among two of the most ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, notably the
Arabs and the Jews. (Although it may please neither party, this is the
truth.) The Mediterraneans occupy the center of the stage; their areas
of greatest concentration are precisely those where civilization is
the oldest. This is to be expected, since it was they who produced it
and it, in a sense, that produced them.", Carleton Coon, Caravan - the
Story of the Middle East, 1958, pp. 154-157
^ The Origin of Races: Weidenreich's Opinion, S. L. Washburn, American
Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 66, No. 5 (Oct. 1964) (pp.
^ An Attempted Revival of the Race Concept, Leonard Lieberman,
American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 97, No. 3 (Sep. 1995), pp.
^ Coon's Theory on "The Origin of Races", Bruce G. Trigger,
Anthropologica, New Series, Vol. 7, No. 2 (1965), pp. 179-187.
^ Coon, Carleton S. (1962) . The Origins of Races. New York: Alfred A.
^ The Races of Europe, The Veddoid Periphery, Hadhramaut to
'^ The Living Races of Man, On Greater India
^ Non-Darwinian estimation: My ancestors, my genes' ancestors
^ Edgar, Heather J.H. (2009). "Race reconciled?: How biological
anthropologists view human variation". American Journal of Physical
Anthropology. 139 (1): 1–4. doi:10.1002/ajpa.20995.
^ Origin of the Human Races, Ernst Mayr, Science, New Series, Vol.
138, No. 3538, (October 19, 1962), pp. 420-422.
^ The Origin of Races. by Carleton S. Coon, Review by: Stanley M.
Garn, American Sociological Review, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Aug. 1963), pp.
^ Pat Shipman (1994). The Evolution of Racism: Human Differences and
the Use and Abuse of Science.
Harvard University Press. p. 200.
^ Academic American Encyclopedia (vol. 5, p.271). Danbury,
Connecticut: Grolier Incorporated (1995).
^ . W. Howells. "Biographical Memoirs V.58". National Academy of
^ a b Jackson, John P. (2001). ""In Ways Unacademical": The Reception
of Carleton S. Coon's The Origin of Races" (PDF). Journal of the
History of Biology. 34 (2): 247–285. doi:10.1023/A:1010366015968.
Archived from the original (PDF) on May 14, 2013.
^ Goodman, A., & Hammonds, E. (2000). Reconciling race and human
adaptability: Carleton Coon and the persistence of race in scientific
discourse. Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers, 28-44.
The Lagar Velho 1 Skeleton
Hybrid Humans? Archaeological Institute of America Volume 52 Number 4,
July/August 1999 by Spencer P.M. Harrington 
Two Views of Coon's Origin of Races with Comments by Coon and Replies.
1963. Theodosius Dobzhansky; Ashley Montagu; C. S. Coon in Current
Anthropology, Vol. 4, No. 4. (Oct. 1963), pp. 360–367.
Jackson, John P. (2005). Science for Segregation: Race, Law, and the
Case against Brown v. Board of Education. NYU Press.
ISBN 978-0-8147-4271-6. Lay summary (August 30, 2010).
The Races of Europe (1939) by
Carleton S. Coon
Carleton S. Coon - physical
anthropological information on the indigenous peoples of Europe.
Tucker, William H. (2007). The funding of scientific racism: Wickliffe
Draper and the Pioneer Fund. University of Illinois Press.
ISBN 978-0-252-07463-9. Lay summary (September 4, 2010).
Historical race concepts
List of racially mixed groups
Robert Bennett Bean
Johann Friedrich Blumenbach
Alice Mossie Brues
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon
Samuel A. Cartwright
Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Sonia Mary Cole
Carleton S. Coon
Egon Freiherr von Eickstedt
Stanley Marion Garn
Reginald Ruggles Gates
Arthur de Gobineau
Hans F. K. Günther
Frederick Ludwig Hoffman
Thomas Henry Huxley
Calvin Ira Kephart
Robert E. Kuttner
Georges Vacher de Lapouge
Felix von Luschan
Lewis H. Morgan
Samuel George Morton
Josiah C. Nott
Isaac La Peyrère
Ludwig Hermann Plate
James Cowles Prichard
William Z. Ripley
Charles Gabriel Seligman
Samuel Stanhope Smith
William Graham Sumner
Thomas Griffith Taylor
John H. Van Evrie
Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer
An Essay upon the Causes of the Different Colours of People in
Different Climates (1744)
The Outline of History of Mankind (1785)
Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question (1849)
An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races
An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1855)
The Races of Europe (Ripley, 1899)
The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1899)
Race Life of the Aryan Peoples
Race Life of the Aryan Peoples (1907)
Heredity in Relation to Eugenics (1911)
Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development (1916)
The Passing of the Great Race
The Passing of the Great Race (1916)
The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy
The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy (1920)
The Myth of the Twentieth Century
The Myth of the Twentieth Century (1930)
Annihilation of Caste
Annihilation of Caste (1936)
The Races of Europe (Coon, 1939)
An Investigation of Global Policy with the Yamato Race as Nucleus
The Race Question
The Race Question (1950)
Great chain of being
History of anthropometry
in Latin America
in the United States
Nazism and race
in the United States
Incorporated in 1812
Based in Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Points of Interest
Board of Selectmen (BOS)
Finance Committee (FinCom)
School Committee/Wakefield Public Schools (WPS)
Board of Health (BOH)
Board of Appeals (ZBA)
WWII Memorial Committee
Full list of governmental positions
Camp Curtis Guild
Center for Applied
Daily Times Chronicle
Hockey East (headquartered in Wakefield)
Lucius Beebe Memorial Library
MBTA bus routes
Our Lady of Nazareth Academy
Paul K. Guillow, Inc.
Wakefield High School (WHS)
Pleasure Island (defunct)
Carleton S. Coon
A. David Mazzone
John Anthony Volpe
National Historic Places
18A & 20 Aborn St.
6 Adams St.
380 Albion St.
5 Bennett St.
E. Boardman House
Elizabeth Boit House
39 Converse St.
28 Cordis St.
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Captain Goodwin-James Eustis House
Samuel Gould House
Capt. William Green House
Deacon Daniel Green House
118 Greenwood St.
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42 Hopkins St.
Dr. Charles Jordan House
Deacon Thomas Kendall House
15 Lawrence St.
556 Lowell St.
1 Morrison Av.
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509 North Av.
52 Oak St.
22 Parker Rd.
Richardson Avenue Rowhouses
Dr. S. O. Richardson House
Dr. Thomas Simpson House
54 Spring St.
William Stimpson House
D. Horace Tilton House
193 Vernon St.
12 W. Water St.
9 White Av.
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Suell Winn House
Charles Winship House
1 Woodcrest Dr.
National Historic Places
(Buildings and Districts)
Beacon Street Tomb
Church–Lafayette Sts. Hist. Dist.
Greenwood Union Church
Col. James Hartshorne House
Lakeside Cemetery Chapel
Massachusetts State Armory
South Reading Academy
St. Joseph School
Temple Israel Cemetery
Main Post Office
Wakefield Rattan Company
Wakefield Trust Company
Wakefield Upper Depot
H.M. Warren School
West Ward School
Yale Avenue Historic District
Media related to
Wakefield, Massachusetts at Wikimedia Commons
Carleton Stevens Coon Papers, National Anthropological Archives,
Caravan: The Story of the Middle East
National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir
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