In a 1981 book, “The Mismeasure of Man,” the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould asserted that Morton, believing that brain size was a measure of intelligence, had subconsciously manipulated the brain volumes of European, Asian and African skulls to favor his bias that Europeans had larger brains and Africans smaller ones.
But now physical anthropologists at the University of Pennsylvania, which owns Morton’s collection, have remeasured the skulls, and in an article that does little to burnish Dr. Gould’s reputation as a scholar, they conclude that almost every detail of his analysis is wrong.
But Dr. Gould himself omitted subgroups in his own reanalysis, and made various errors in his calculations. When these are corrected, the differences between the racial categories recognized by Morton are as he assigned them. “Ironically, Gould’s own analysis of Morton is likely the stronger example of a bias influencing results,” the Pennsylvania team writes.
But Ralph L. Holloway, an expert on human evolution at Columbia and a co-author of the new study, was less willing to give Dr. Gould benefit of the doubt.
“I just didn’t trust Gould,” he said. “I had the feeling that his ideological stance was supreme. When the 1996 version of ‘The Mismeasure of Man’ came and he never even bothered to mention Michael’s study, I just felt he was a charlatan.”