Paul Topinard  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Wiki Commons

Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Paul Topinard (4 November 1830, L'Isle-Adam Parmain, Val-d'Oise – 20 December 1911) was a French physician and anthropologist who was a student of Paul Broca and whose views influenced the methodology adopted by Herbert Hope Risley in his ethnographic surveys of the people of India. He became director of the École d'Anthropologie and secretary-general of the Société d'Anthropologie de Paris, both in succession to Broca.


Paul Topinard's specialization was physical anthropology. His opinions were polygenist but he was less rigid than Broca. He nonetheless frequently referred to Broca as his "master", and according to John Carson was "committed to the superiority of white male Europeans". Patrick Brantlinger says that "... the spell of craniology, phrenology, physiognomy, and other attempts to quantify racial inequalities by physical measurement hovers over ...the ethnological and anthropological debates of the mid- and late-Victorian eras. These attempts expressed a materialist determinism, strongly associated with scientific explanation, that underscored the inevitability of the extinction or extermination of the "lower races" by the "higher" ones in "the struggle for existence"."

In a manner similar to Samuel George Morton, the anthropologist of the United States, Topinard conducted experiments intended to test theories that cranial capacity was a marker of ethnicity, with European capacities being the largest and Australian Aborigines the smallest. He calculated the capacity of various skulls by pouring substances into them and then noting the volume consumed, on the assumption that a larger space for a brain equated to a more developed intellect. He also believed that such measurements could be tracked through the evolution of the human species and that a larger cranial capacity was therefore related to a greater degree of civilisation. Charles Loring Brace has recently studied skulls used originally by Topinard in his experiments and believes that there is a fundamental flaw in the theory because the Congolese and West African examples represented people who were physically much smaller overall.

By 1891 Topinard was questioning the assumptions used to assess relative racial worth in his earlier works. He noted in his L'Homme dans la nature {{quote|Is the fundamental superiority of one race really betrayed outwardly by some material sign? We are still in ignorance upon this point. But when we examine it more closely, we are led to think that it is not so.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Paul Topinard" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools