Books  General Natural History  History of Science 

Race Unmasked: Biology and Race in the Twentieth Century

By: Michael Yudell(Author), J Craig Venter(Foreword By)

Columbia University Press

Hardback | Oct 2014 | #215354 | ISBN-13: 9780231168748
Availability: Usually dispatched within 4 days Details
NHBS Price: £27.50 $37/€31 approx

About this book

Race, while drawn from the visual cues of human diversity, is an idea with a measurable past, an identifiable present, and an uncertain future. The concept of race has been at the center of both triumphs and tragedies in American history and has had a profound effect on the human experience. Race Unmasked revisits the origins of commonly held beliefs about the scientific nature of racial differences, examines the roots of the modern idea of race, and explains why race continues to generate controversy as a tool of classification even in our genomic age.

Through rigorous historical research, Race Unmasked reveals how genetics and related biological disciplines formed and preserved ideas of race and, at times, racism throughout the twentieth century. Surveying the work of some of the twentieth century's most notable scientists, Race Unmasked elucidates the limitations of a racial worldview. This new work is a gripping history of science and scientists that throws the contours of our current and evolving understanding of human diversity into sharp relief.

"How can a concept that has been so debunked as a biological reality keep rising from the dead? Race Unmasked helps answer this by illustrating the troubling story of the sustained, strained, and stained history of the concept of race in scientific thought and practice."
– David Rosner, Columbia University

"We have needed a reassessment and intelligent book on how racial categorizing grows within twentieth and twenty-first century science without using the simple labels of "racism" or "racist." Race Unmasked is a terrific guide to the often invisible intertwined terrain of science and politics around race. Re-reading the past with an eye to nuance and clarity, Yudell understands how "race" comes to be unintentionally hidden, and yet still can be uncovered and critiqued. This book should find its way to classrooms across the curriculum."
– Susan M. Reverby, Wellesley College and author of Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and its Legacy

"Race matters. All over the world we sort each other into groups by skin color, hair texture, and other physical characteristics, but as Michael Yudell reminds us in this masterful, engaging, and important book, we barely have a clue about the biological basis for what we are doing. Race Unmasked is just the right remedy for those seeking to better understand the horrors and wrongs of racism."
– Arthur L. Caplan, NYU Langone Medical Center

"Michael Yudell has given us a fascinating and perceptive study of "man's most dangerous myth." This insightful book on race should be read widely by anyone concerned with the multiple uses, misuses, tangled history, and persistent confusions over this vexed and potent concept."
– Keith Wailoo, Princeton University



1. A Eugenic Foundation
2. Charles Davenport and the Biology of Blackness
3. Eugenics in the Public’s Eye
4. The National Research Council and the Scientific Study of Race
5. Coloring Race Difference
6. Biology and the Problem of the Color Line
7. Race and the Evolutionary Synthesis
8. Consolidating the Race Concept in Biology
9. Challenges to the Race Concept
10. Naturalizing Racism: The Controversy Over Sociobiology
11. Race in the Genomic Age
Epilogue: Dobzhansky’s Paradox and the Future of Racial Research


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Michael Yudell is an associate professor at the Drexel University School of Public Health, where he directs the Program in Public Health Ethics and History. He is author of the blog The Public's Health for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and his prior books include Welcome to the Genome: A User's Guide to the Genetic Past, Present, and Future and The Genomic Revolution: Unveiling the Unity of Life. He is currently writing a history of autism spectrum disorders.

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