The Mismeasure of Man | Study Guide

Stephen Jay Gould

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The Mismeasure of Man | Key Figure Analysis

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Stephen Jay Gould

The author of The Mismeasure of Man, Gould was an evolutionary biologist best known for his theory of punctuated equilibrium: that new species develop quickly in short bursts of time rather than gradually. Gould taught at Harvard University, was curator of Harvard's invertebrate paleontology museum, and published numerous books and hundreds of articles for the nonscientific audience. He was a recipient of one of the first MacArthur "genius" fellowships and won numerous awards both for his scholarship and for his writing.

Samuel George Morton

Morton compared the skull size of whites, blacks, Native Americans, and mummified Egyptians. He came to the conclusion that whites had the largest skulls and were therefore the most superior race. Gould reanalyzed Morton's data and concludes that he made a host of mistakes. Gould attributes this not to deliberate fraud but to the effects of unconscious bias.

Paul Broca

Broca is best known in medical history for his discovery of the part of the brain that controls speech: a part that physicians still call Broca's area. But Broca also worked in craniometry, measuring hundreds of skulls taken from Parisian cemeteries in an effort to prove that intelligence is linked to brain size. Although Broca believed that his measurements supported that link, Gould contends that Broca allowed prior assumptions to distort his interpretation of the data.

Alfred Binet

Binet developed the first intelligence test. French schoolchildren were given a series of practical tasks to complete. Afterwards their performance was compared against other children their same age. The purpose of the test was to help develop educational strategies to help students with special needs.

Lewis M. Terman

Terman was chairman of the psychology department at Stanford University and is famous for adapting Binet's intelligence test. Known as the Stanford-Binet IQ test, it is used in the United States to this day. Terman changed the scoring method by introducing a quotient, or IQ. This is obtained by dividing a person's mental age on the test by their actual age, then multiplying by 100.

Charles Murray

Murray co-authored The Bell Curve (1994) with Richard J. Herrnstein. This was a controversial book about intelligence that claims that a permanent underclass of intellectually inferior people exists, a group whose situation cannot be improved by education or government assistance programs. Opposition to the book often focuses on the specific claim it makes that the 15-point gap in group IQ between black people and white people is due to inheritance rather than the effects of poverty and institutional racism.

Richard J. Herrnstein

Herrnstein co-authored The Bell Curve (1994) with Charles Murray. This was a controversial book about intelligence that claims that a permanent underclass of intellectually inferior people exists, a group whose situation cannot be improved by education or government assistance programs. Opposition to the book often focuses on the specific claim it makes that the 15-point gap in group IQ between black people and white people is due to inheritance rather than the effects of poverty and institutional racism.

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