You've heard of the Scottish philosopher David Hume. But do you know how much he wrote about the concept of race? Turns out, kind of a lot. And then there were the lauded Scottish surgeons William and John Hunter. They thought humans were derived from apes ... in the 1700s! They influenced a guy you've probably never heard of, Charles White, who wrote a popular book that pulled together all the other discussions about racial gradation by the other figures we talked about: Linneaus, Buffon, Blumenbach, and Petrus Camper. But they also influenced a guy you HAVE heard of, Thomas Jefferson, who used these scientific treatises to argue against emancipation for Africans in America. Plus we take about the 7'7" Irish Giant, Charles Byrne, and why he was so afraid of John Hunter!
Source notes (in no particular order) On the Hunters possible murderousness: Don C Shelton. 2010. “The Emperor's new clothes,” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 103(2):46-50.
And the rebuttal: Helen King. 2012. “History without Historians? Medical History and the Internet,” Social History of Medicine 24(2):212-221. doi:10.1093/shm/hkr054.
On John Hunter: Wendy Moore. 2005. The Knife Man: The Extraordinary Life and Times of John Hunter, Father of Modern Surgery. London: Bantam.
James Burnett, Lord Monboddo, Of the Origin and Progress of Language (6 volumes, Edinburgh and London, J. Balfour and T. Cadell, 1773–1792).
James Burnett, Lord Monboddo — Antient Metaphysics, or The Science of Universals (6 volumes, Edinburgh and London, J. Balfour and T. Cadell, 1779-1799).
Blancke, Stefaan. 2014. “Lord Monboddo’s Ourang-Outang and the Origin and Progress of Language.” In The Evolution of Social Communication in Primates, Interdisciplinary Evolution Research 1, Eds. M. Pina and N. Gontier. Basel: Springer, pp. 31-44.
Lehmann, William C. 2013. Henry Home, Lord Kames, and the Scottish Enlightenment: A Study in National Character and in the History of Ideas. Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media.
Sherwin, Oscar. 1958. A Man with a Tail -- Lordo Monboddo. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 13(4): 435-468.
Jefferson, Thomas. 1782. Notes on the State of Virginia. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/jeffvir.asp
The fact that his skeleton is in this display gives you a hint about why Charles Byrne was afraid of John Hunter.... (Image: The History Blog)