Letter | Published:

A Great Oxford Discovery

Nature volume 71, page 510 (30 March 1905) | Download Citation



IN a recent study of some eighteenth century naturalists' writings I was a good deal struck by the amount of attention devoted to the problem of whether the white man was a sport from negroid stock or the negro a sport from a white race. The matter was discussed from every standpoint, physiological, geographical, and theological, but the consensus of opinion, based chiefly on the existence of albinotic and pied negroes, and on the misunderstood effects of leucoderma, was that the white might be a negro sport, but that there was no evidence of a black sport in the case of the white races. If such an opinion were correct, and the white man only a negro sport, we should certainly expect to find the negroid cranial type common among the white races. Two distinguished Oxford men of science have just thrown remarkable light on this problem. They have given a very simple series of conditions by which crania can be classed into skulls of negroid, non-negroid, and intermediate types. These conditions depend entirely on a classification of nasal and facial indices, and by their processes our authors are able to distinguish between the negroid, non-negroid, and intermediate types among prehistoric Egyptian crania. Not being an anatomist, I am quite unable to judge of the processes by which they have reached their criteria, and the photographs which accompany their volume are of so obscure a character—indeed, in the present state of cranial photography somewhat unworthy of a university press—that they hardly allow the uninitiated even with a lens to appreciate the justification which the authors find for their classification in the outward appearances of their cranial groups. I think, however, we may safely give the greatest weight possible to a judgment formed by the Oxford professor of human anatomy and the Oxford reader in Egyptology in a folio volume just issued by the syndics of the University Press.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Author information


  1. University College, London.



  1. Search for KARL PEARSON in:

About this article

Publication history





By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.