Reanalysis of Franz Boas’s Immigrant Study

In 1910, Franz Boas published the first results from his classic study, Changes in Bodily Form of Descendants of Immigrants. This landmark work became controversial almost immediately, as it challenged many prevailing ideas about human biology and race. The most striking finding at the time was that head shape—long thought to be a fixed, purely hereditary marker of race—was in fact sensitive to changes in environment within a single generation.

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Boas’s most impressive response to the controversy was his decision in 1928 to publish 504 pages of raw, handwritten data from the immigrant study as Materials for the Study of Inheritance in Man. He explained: "It seemed necessary to make the data accessible, because a great many questions relating to heredity and environmental influences may be treated by means of this material." In the same spirit, here we provide the machine-readable data set that is the basis of our recent reanalysis of Boas’s data set. You will also find links to relevant publications and other sites of interest.

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Clarence C. Gravlee, H. Russell Bernard, and William R. Leonard
7 April 2003

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Data Files | Bibliography | Sample Raw Data

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