By Professor WILLIAM H. FLOWER, F.R.S.
THE most ordinary observation is sufficient to demonstrate the fact that certain groups of men are strongly marked from others by definite characters common to all members of the group, and transmitted regularly to their descendants by the laws of inheritance. The Chinaman and the negro, the native of Patagonia and the Andaman-Islander, are as distinct from each other structurally as are many of the so-called species of any natural group of animals. Indeed, it may be said with truth that their differences are greater than those which mark the groups called genera by many naturalists of the present day. Nevertheless, the difficulty of parceling out all the individuals composing the human species into certain definite groups, and of saying of each man that he belongs to one of other of such groups, is insuperable. No such classification has ever, or indeed, can ever, be obtained. There is not one of the most characteristic, most extreme forms, like those I have just named, from which transitions can not be traced by almost imperceptible gradations to any of the other equally characteristic, equally extreme, forms. Indeed, a largo proportion of mankind is made up, not of extreme or typical, but of more or less generalized or intermediate, forms, the relative numbers of which are continually increasing as the long-existing isolation of nations and races breaks down under the ever-extending intercommunication characteristic of the period in which we dwell.
The difficulties of framing a natural classification of man, or one which really represents the relationship of the various minor groups to each other, are well exemplified by a study of the numerous attempts which have been made from the time of Linnæus and Blumenbach onward. Even in the first step of establishing certain primary groups of equivalent rank there has been no accord. The number of such groups has been most variously estimated by different writers from two up to sixty, or more, although it is important to note that there has always been a tendency to revert to the four primitive types sketched out by Linnæus—the European, Asiatic, African, and American—expanded into five by Blumenbach by the addition of the Malay, and reduced by Cuvier to three by the suppression of the last two. After a perfectly independent study of the subject, extending over many years, I can not resist the conclusion, so often arrived at by various anthropologists, and so often abandoned for some more complex system, that the primitive man, whatever he may have been, has in the course of ages divaricated into three extreme types, represented by the
- From the President’s Anniversary Address to the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, January 27, 1885.