Books  Evolutionary Biology  Human Evolution & Anthropology 

Biological Perspectives on Human Pigmentation

Series: Cambridge Studies in Biological and Evolutionary Anthropology Volume: 7

By: Ashley H Robins (Author)

267 pages, B/w photos, illus, tabs

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Sep 2005 | #156137 | ISBN: 0521020204
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £31.99 $39/€36 approx
Hardback | Jul 1991 | #26202 | ISBN: 0521365147
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £103.00 $126/€116 approx

About this book

Skin colour is perhaps the most decisive and abused physical characteristic of humankind. Biological Perspectives on Human Pigmentation presents a multidisciplinary overview of how and why human populations vary so markedly in their skin colour. The biological aspects of the pigment cell and its production of melanin are reviewed. The functions of melanin in the skin, brain, eye and ear are considered, and the common clinical abnormalities of pigmentation, such as albinism, are described and illustrated. Detailed reflectance data from worldwide surveys of skin colour are also presented. The historical and contemporary background of the phenomenon is explored in relation to the so-called `colour problem' in society. Finally, the possible evolutionary forces which shape human pigmentation are assessed. This fascinating account will be of interest to graduate students and researchers of biological anthropology, anatomy, physiology and dermatology, as well as medical practitioners.

Melanin has probably caused more social injustice than any other molecule in the body, yet few sociologists understand the biology of skin colour and few physicians are conversant with the anthropological, evolutionary, and psychosocial aspects of racial pigmentation. All these topics are crisply and elegantly reviewed in this monograph from a Cape Town pharmacologist. Robins has worked hard to select the essential facts from many disciplines, and the result is a concise yet thorough overview of this important subject. John L. Burton, Lancet "...a crisply written, expert and intelligible survey of the medical and anthropological work on human pigmentation, and both physicians and anthropologists will find uses for it." Times Literary Supplement "...concisely surveys the nature of skin color in humans...not so esoteric that it could not be used by anyone interested in the subjects of human pigmentation, skin color, and race." Choice "...this book is a success. Robins includes a good set of references, and the book is well written. For the topics that he decided to cover, he has done a good job. The book contains a great deal of information and is handy for references." Aaron B. Lerner, New England Journal of Medicine "...a complete and conscientious survey of all that is known about pigmentation in the human species...will be most useful to anyone who wishes to add to that literature, and there is much that could be added, particularly in genetics." Alice M. Brues, American Journal of Human Biology



1. Biology of the pigment cell
2. The biochemical and hormonal control of pigmentation
3. Ultraviolet radiation and the pigmentary system
4. Functions of melanin
5. Non-cutaneous melanin: distribution, nature and relationship to skin melanin
6. The properties and possible functions of non-cutaneous melanin
7. Measurement of skin colour
8. Disorders of hyperpigmentation
9. Disorders of hypopigmentation
10. Skin colour and society: the social-biological interface
11. The evolution of skin colour


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