Coon, Carleton Stevens

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Coon, Carleton Stevens

Carleton Stevens Coon, 1904–81, American anthropologist, archaeologist, and educator, b. Wakefield, Mass., grad. Harvard 1925, Ph.D. 1928. From 1925 to 1939 he was engaged in fieldwork and anthropological research in Arabia, the Balkans, and N Africa, where he discovered (1939) the remains of a Neanderthal. He taught (1934–48) at Harvard and in 1948 became professor of anthropology at the Univ. of Pennsylvania and curator of ethnology at the University Museum there. Coon became a controversial figure after writing The Origin of Races (1962), in which he argued that certain races had reached the Homo sapiens stage of evolution before others; he said this would explain why different races achieved different levels of civilization. Physical anthropologists now emphasize that the amount of genetic variation between races, by any objective criteria, is slight, indicating a recent origin for racial differences. His other writings include Races (1951, repr. 1981), The Seven Caves (1957), The Story of Man (2d ed. 1962), The Living Races of Man (1965), The Hunting Peoples (1971), and his autobiography, Adventures and Discoveries (1981).

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