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Boas' Study of Immigrants

Boas organized the opposition to "scientific racism." He picked his targets carefully. In 1908-09 he headed up a huge government-sponsored study, with a sample size of more than 18,000 immigrants. He looked at the argument that immigrants from South and East Europe were physically different. Using careful measurements he showed that while body and head types of immigrants and their children indeed started out differently, over time such differences disappeared. It was, he said, the social environment that caused the original differentiation. A change in the environment, diet, for one example, could change human beings. 

In a broader view, Boas maintained that not only were people influenced by their environment, but so were human cultures. There were no superior peoples, no super-races.

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Boas

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