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E.A. Hooton

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Earnest Albert Hooton (November 20, 1887, Clemansville, Wisconsin – May 3, 1954, Cambridge, Massachusetts) was a U.S. physical anthropologist known for his work on racial classification and his popular writings such as the book Up From The Apes.

Hooton was educated at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. After earning his BA there in 1907, he won a prestigious 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 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. Marrett, 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 for 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 attracted a large number of students and established Harvard as a center for physical anthropology in the United States.

Many of Hooton's research projects were endebted to his training in physical anthropology at a time when this field consisted most of anatomy and focused on physiological variation between individuals. The '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 on the restrictive shape of ball-turrets in the B-17 aircraft was decisive in the creation of a mature applied physical anthropology in the United States.

Hooton also worked with William Sheldon on collecting Ivy League nude posture photos along with physical data of body measurements.

Hooton was also a public figure well-known for popular volumes with titles like Up From the Apes, 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.

Like many others of his time, 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'.

Sources and further reading Edit

  • 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.

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