Claudio Pogliano is professor of History of Science at the University of Pisa and president of the Graduate Program in History of Science established by the Tuscan University (Firenze, Pisa, Siena), a member of the advisory board of the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza (Firenze) and of the editorial board of “Nuncius. Journal of the History of Science”.
Since 1980 he has been periodically working abroad : at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine (Londra), Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.), University of California (Berkeley), M.I.T. (Cambridge, Mass.), Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte (Berlino).
His main interest focuses on the modern and contemporary history of life sciences and of the sciences of man.
List of main publications
1. Piero Gobetti e l'ideologia dell'assenza, Bari, De Donato, 1976.
2. Il compasso della mente. Origini delle scienze dell'uomo negli Stati Uniti , Milano, Angeli, 1983.
3. Franz Joseph Gall, L'organo dell'anima. Fisiologia cerebrale e disciplina dei comportamenti, Venezia, Marsilio, 1985 (edition and introduction).
4. Scienze della natura e scienze dell'uomo. Momenti di un rapporto , Milano, Angeli, 1987.
5. Pharmakon. Storia dello psicotropismo, Udine, Casamassima, 1990-1991, 2 vols.
6. Il cammino impedito, Udine, Casamassima, 1991.
7. Storia delle scienze. Natura e vita: l'età moderna , ed. by Pietro Corsi e Claudio Pogliano, Torino, Einaudi, 1994.
8. Ludovico Antonio Muratori, Della forza della fantasia umana, Firenze, Giunti, 1995 (edition and introduction).
9. Journals and History of Science , ed. by Marco Beretta, Claudio Pogliano, and Pietro Redondi, Firenze, Olschki, 1998.
10. Immagini per conoscere. Dal Rinascimento alla Rivoluzione scientifica , ed by Fabrizio Meroi e Claudio Pogliano, Firenze, Olschki, 2001.
11. Julian S.Huxley – Alfred C.Haddon, Noi Europei. Un’indagine sul problema “razziale”, Foreword by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza. Edited and introduced by Claudio Pogliano, Milano, Edizioni di Comunità, 2002.
12. L'ossessione della razza. Antropologia e genetica nel XX secolo , Pisa, Edizioni della Normale, 2005.
B. Recent essays
The Misfortunes of History of Science in Italy , in Journals and History of Science, ed. by Marco Beretta, Claudio Pogliano, and Pietro Redondi, Firenze, Olschki, 1998, 97-118.
Città dell’artificio. Scienze e cultura a Trieste , “Archivio trentino. Rivista di studi sull’età moderna e contemporanea”, 48/1, 1999, 7-132.
Bachi, polli e grani. Appunti sulla ricezione della genetica in Italia , “Nuncius. Annali di storia della scienza”, 14/1, 1999, 133-168.
Eugenisti, ma con giudizio , in Nel nome della razza. Il razzismo nella storia d’Italia (1870-1945) , a cura di Alberto Burgio, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1999, 423-442 (Spanish translation : Eugenistas, pero con prudencia, “Asclepio”, 51/2, 1999, 101-116).
Il contributo italiano al razzismo del XX secolo , “Nuncius. Annali di storia della scienza”, 14/2, 1999, 663-670.
Teatro, mondo, sapere. Un percorso di lettura sulle origini della modernità , “Belfagor”, 55, 2000, 9-30.
Images and Practice of Science in Post-War Italy , in Luca Guzzetti (ed.), Science and Power: the Historical Foundations of Research Policies in Europe , Brussels, European Commission, 2000, 187-195.
Le scienze biomediche , in Antonio Casella, Alessandra Ferraresi, Giuseppe Giuliani, Elisa Signori (ed. by), Una difficile modernità
. Tradizioni di ricerca e comunità scientifiche in Italia 1890-1940 , Pavia, Università degli Studi, 2000, pp.257-286.
Il cervello degli Italiani , in Alessandro Minelli e Sandra Casellato (ed. by), Giovanni Canestrini, zoologist and Darwinist , Venezia, Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, 2001, pp.351-377.
Healing and Ruling : Medical Reformers after the Unification of Italy , “Paedagogica Historica”, 38, 2002, pp.485-502
Capelli spaccati in quattro : tricofilia, tricologia, tricometria , in Marco Beretta, Paolo Galluzzi, Carlo Triarico (eds.), Musa Musaei. Studies in Scientific Instruments and Collections in Honour of Mara Miniati, Firenze, Olschki, 2003, pp.407-431.
Sciences at War and the Cybernetic Dream , in “Nuncius. Annali di storia della scienza”, 19/1, 2004, pp.171-204.
Gli asini di Galeno. Breve storia della corteccia cerebrale , in Fabrizio Meroi (ed.), Con l'ali de l'intelletto. Studi di filosofia e di storia della cultura, Firenze, Olschki, 2005, pp.237-282.
|"L'ossessione della razza. Antropologia e genetica nel XX secolo"
Essentially, this is a book about the great power that 'prejudice' has had in driving thought and action of some scientific fields. Its particular object is represented by the vicissitudes of the concept of race in the 20th century, an extremely critical and controversial concept when applied to the human species. On the stage there are mainly two disciplinary tribes, that generally competed and seldom collaborated in trying to describe, understand and classify the phenomena of human diversity. Furthermore, the concept of race operates as an apparatus detecting indemonstrable truths, postulates, attitudes, biases, emotions : nobody could remain indifferent to it during the century that made it a dreadful weapon.
The book is the result of e five-year period of research in several libraries, European and American. With a broadly comparative approach, it is composed by an introductory chapter and seven essays which are relatively autonomous, although linked by a number of threads. In full relief are the meetings of the scientific community, where the historian can easily find what its members wish to let know about themselces, their curious interplay, the rhetorics by which they face each other in a game, by which they win or loose it. Physical anthropologists and geneticists are the main actors of this story and they look like social insects buzzing around their beehive, departing in search of new pollen and periodically coming back. But it is not harmony that reigns among them.
A few years ago a preliminary hypothesis, formulated on the basis of the existing literature, led me to assume that the parabola of the scientific concept of race had underwent a rapid decline during the 20th century, until its final setting due to a series of factors both internal and external to science. As I went on in amassing materials, I changed my hypothesis and recognized that the alleged decline had been provoking in the last decades many active and passive resistances. The 'sun' of race, shining since the 19th century and loosing its strength after World War Two, has stopped, low at the horizon of the scientific discourse. An unfinished setting, so to speak. There has been a continuous talking about race, with different assumptions, implications, and purposes. According to the place, time, and context, the meaning of the word has been extremely changeable : it is amazing that a word so devoid of a certain objective reality could still rouse such strong passions, at different levels, after having produced a huge amount of discourses along two centuries.
All considered, it is true that round mid 20th century the decreasing phase of the parabola began, when the firm belief that all was 'racially' explicable left room to the suspicion and finally to the persuasion that science could get rid of the race concept without damage. In particular, two disciplines met and fought at the front represented by its validity, efficiency, and convenience. The so called evolutionary synthesis of the 1930s gave impetus to a deep transformation of biology and caused remarkable consequences in the study of man. Anthropology had to confront the instrumental and conceptual equipment of genetics, a younger and more dynamic discipline. However, if human genetics favoured on the long run a turning point in methods and aims, one has not to overstate its advent as the factor redeeming from the sins of racialism and racism. By itself, mendelism applied to man did not free him from the chains forged by physical anthropology since the 19th century. As a matter of fact, to think in termes of genes and populations not necessarily, not everywhere, and not always was enough to unmask or to deprive the race concept of its alleged value. In order to deconstruct the concept of race, that thinking in terms of genes and population had to be expressed by actors who had already chosen to fight against the racial classifications conceived as a scientific common sense.
On the background of this chronicle about sciences that have human diversity as their enigmatic subiect, there is a world dramatically changing : the two wars, the advent of fascisms in Europe during the interwar period, the collective racial delirium that led to the “final solution”, the post-war unpleasant awakening with all the complicated events of decolonization, and the economic, political, and cultural hegemony in the meantime conquered by the United States. If in 1903 the sociologist and black activist William E. B. Du Bois had foreseen that the main problem of the 20th century would be of color line, in 1993 the black sociologist Stuart Hall maintained that the capacity of living with difference would represent the incumbent question of the 21st century. In 1950 William Boyd, who helped the genetic 'conversion' of anthropology, stressed the renewed obsession of Western culture with the idea of race.
The seven chapters of my book try to show how influential or determinant, in shaping knowledge, could be an array of causes which are external to its instruments, discoveries, and theories : among the others, the powerful subjectivity of the scientific actor. As any other book, mine is including and excluding, for a series of reasons linked to its making, to choices of opportunity and to mere chance. The following is a scheme of its content, chapter by chapter:
Race at congress (1911-1968)>
The beginning date is 1911, when a Universal Race Congress was held in London, the first and the only one, as the second planned for 1914 was cancelled by the outbreak of war. Having described what happened there, the chapter moves forward to observe how slowly and laboriously the institutional and international framework of anthropology had to be rebuilt, thanks also to a series of continual congresses. Using the massive quantity of their proceedings as a source, evidence is given to the contributions and discussions that in every single congress were focused on race. My review allows to highlight that the concept of race has been active for the whole considered period as one of the main cornerstone of the anthropological common sense.
Seroanthropology : the passion of blood
The topic is here the complex train of events which followed the discovery (1919) that blood groups AB0 have a different distribution in different peoples and 'races'. The first section examines the rapid development of a wide range of serological analysis between the World Wars. This was based on the belief that anthropology could adopt blood groups as a new tool of racial classification, more efficient than the previous ones based solely on the morphological traits. Seroanthropology was a broad international 'industry' and had some hazardous applications in the 1930s, that awakened distrust in some areas of the scientific community. The last section of the chapter illustrates how that industry slowly converted to a different aim that consists in giving information on the remote history of Homo sapiens.
Unesco in action (1949-1967)
The two Statements on Race issued by Unesco in 1950-1951 offer an interesting case of intersection and problematic collaboration between science and politics. While Europe was recovering and rebuilding after the ravages of war, the young United Nations organization decided to launch a campaign against the numberless sources of racism spread all over the world. For almost three years, Unesco House in Paris changed into the headquarters of a battle inside the international scientific community, whose different sections were disagreeing about the meaning and the implications of the race concept. Mainly based on Unesco archival materials, this chapter describes the development of that confrontation and ends with a hint to the following Statements of 1964-1967.
Bastards : the dilemma of hybrids
In the Unesco Statements on Race one of the most controversial paragraphs regarded the value to be assigned to the racial crossings : a topic already dealt with by 19th century anthropology. Since the beginning of the 20th century many efforts have been made, again and again, to get an 'experimental' idea through the study of particular human groups fit for the purpose.The so called Rehoboth Bastards, the offspring of the Bounty mutineers, or the multicoloured inhabitants of Hawaii are only some of the subjects examined by a scientific literature on miscegenation that has been flourishing until mid-century and reveals one of the anxieties more felt in the late colonial period.
Metamorphosis of a discipline : the American case
In June 1950 a number of anthropologists and geneticists, mostly from the United States, met for nine days in Cold Spring Harbor to discuss about the origins and evolution of man. After having examined their meeting, usually reputed to be a turning point, the chapter gives first of all a picture of inter-war American anthropology, that had to face the public fear of the 'aliens' migrated from Europe. Then it follows the tracks of a scientificdiscourse on the existence of human races that was held all along the 1950s and 1960s, in connection with the campaigns for the civil rights of minorities. The possibility of classifying races was not to be solved, notwithstanding several attempts to deny it or to leave it aside. Still in the 1990s a scientific racialism has made its appearance, while the American Association of Physical Anthropologists has issued a Statement on the Biological Aspects of Race.
Italy : faithfulness to tradition and continuity
It is well known how spontaneously Italian antropologists adhered to the colonial enterprises since the end of the 19th century and to the consequent political measures. The first part of this chapter lists some remarkable examples of their racialism and then deals in particular with the anthropological geography that Renato Biasutti hegan to outline in the early 20th century. He brought his approach to a full expression by designing and editing Le razze e i popoli della terra, in three volumes published in 1941. The long life of this encyclopedic work (other three enlarged and modified editions came out until 1967) represents only one of the several clues of the substantial inertia that marked and impaired Italian antrhopology up to the late 1960s.
France : polyphony and monocracy
During the 20th century also the French case is distinguished by a certain loyalty to the 19th century model of physical anthropology, significantly codified in Paris by Paul Broca and his school. However, between the two wars some evident symptoms of tension and impatience – unknown to the Italian case – came to light, and are documented by this chapyer. And if in Italy the discipline was for many decades led by few scholars, unusually long-lived, in France the supremacy of Henri Victor Vallois became soon established and remained almost undisputed until the 1960s