Smithsonian's collection of human brains was "gathered without consent"

Originally published at: Smithsonian's collection of human brains was "gathered without consent" | Boing Boing


They gathered without conset the brain of A.B. Normal ad from that all gone downhill.



I can’t remember if I told them they could have my brain.

But if they already have my brain that would explain why I can’t remember.


Donations accepted. Do you need a receipt for tax purposes?



grabbing homer simpson GIF


Pretty sure all of the non-human (animals! I am talking about animals, not aliens!) brains in their collection were also “gathered without consent”


So a bigot gathers up a bunch of brains so he can “prove” how white brains are superior, probably due to having some sort of deep seated insecurities about his own intelligence, but… how exactly did he plan to judge what qualities made a brain superior?

Springiness? Wrinkliness? Color? Flavor?


The same way guys like that always work. By making shit up.


this is the history of physical anthropology. it was started to find racial differences, whether they existed or not

Physical anthropology was created specifically to study human racial differences; the primary focus was on human physical form, especially that of the skull given its function of housing the brain (the seat of personality and intelligence) to classify humans into groups.

These classifications were often hierarchical in nature, with men of European descent placed in the foremost position. While the days of anthropologists and anatomists using physical traits to create racialized hierarchies are over, late 19th and early 20th century physical anthropology did such a good job of teaching the public that racial hierarchies existed that these ideas still persist in the public consciousness. Further, such ideas, while debunked by science, are part of what has created the ideology of the race state as we know it today

this article is about bones in general; the above quote comes from the paper it links to. it was just one i found quickly. while the historical “data” on bones and brains is completely junk, it’s still used in forensics ( and sometimes in medicine ) - and there’s lots you can dig up on the topic ( dear god, no pun intended )


Science is great; some scientists, not so much.


Fire up the Tesla coil. It’s not too late to ask.


This man hardly even qualified at all as a scientist. He doesn’t seem to have made any studies at all of the brains he collected stole. It appears that he gathered mostly non-white brains so he could say he was studying them, and that his work so far was proving his biased/racist supposition that white brains are superior.

Good overview here of this racist asshat’s work, and of the Smithsonian’s very belated effort to rectify it:


So when the Smithsonian goes out and collects brains without asking, it’s coyly labeled as “gathering without consent”.

But when I go out with a bunch of my friends and collect people’s brains, everyone starts yelling about a “zombie apocalypse”.

Talk about a double standard …




Yeah. It is not hard to find scientists who made important discoveries but were disgusting racists – Hrdlicka’s apparent inspiration Cuvier, for instance. But for Hrdlicka himself, this really seems to have been his entire legacy. He’s really just a collector and in the worst possible way. That his memory is at all honored is a shame and one so badly overdue to correct.


I mean, there’s checking to see if they need to be buried whole, but interrogating the zombie after decease is still kind of niche.
Taking a lopsided sample without a plan is kind of off for antiquarians though?
Who’s prepared to take a finely pickled brain return? Just return oriented programmers?

Perhaps you decided to get a brain transplant, but then changed your mind?

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