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History of Human Biology (1929-2004)
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Human Biology 76.6 (2004) 805-815

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History of Human Biology (1929–2004)

Laboratory of Biological Anthropology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045.

journal history.

The journal Human Biology was founded 75 years ago by Raymond Pearl, an eminent biologist and Professor of Biometry and Vital Statistics at Johns Hopkins University. In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of this journal, I was asked by the editorial board to prepare a brief history of Human Biology. In the 1989 special issue titled "Foundations of Anthropological Genetics," Gabriel W. Lasker had compiled an earlier historical account of the journal. Additional comments about the circumstances surrounding his acceptance of the editorship of Human Biology in 1953 and early years of his editorship are discussed in Chapter 12 of Lasker's memoirs, Happenings and Hearsay (Lasker 1999). In this review of the history of Human Biology I place greater emphasis on the periods that I know best, that is, from 1988 to the present, when I was either the editor-in-chief or the consulting editor. I have also provided (1) a time line of the significant events associated with 75 years of publication of this distinguished journal and (2) an analysis of the changes in topical coverage and focus from 1929 to the present.

Editors Past and Present

Since its founding, Human Biology has had nine editors (see the time line in Table 1). These editors served for varying durations, from 35 years by Gabriel W. Lasker to 11 years each by Raymond Pearl and Michael H. Crawford, to Francis E. Johnston, who was appointed editor-in-chief but did not edit a single issue of the journal (Lasker 1989). After his appointment to the editorship, Johnston went on a sabbatical to the United Kingdom and in his place, Barry Bogin (Associate Editor) edited the journal for the entire year.

Following Raymond Pearl's sudden death in 1940, his widow assumed the reigns of managing editor while Lowell J. Reid served as editor-in-chief for six years. In 1946, Charles Paine Windsor (a biostatistician) succeeded Reid and edited the journal from 1946 to April 4, 1951, when he died unexpectedly. In 1952, William G. Cochran became editor, but because of financial exigency, in the following year he suspended publication of the journal. Lasker assumed the [End Page 805] editorship of the journal in 1953 and set it on a solid financial foundation by securing grants from the Wenner–Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and the National Science Foundation to underwrite the publication and purchase of the journal. Ownership of the journal was transferred from Johns Hopkins University Press to Wayne State University Press in 1954.

Time Line of the Significant Events in the History of Human Biology: 1929-2004
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Table 1
Time Line of the Significant Events in the History of Human Biology: 1929-2004

Lasker continued to serve as editor for an unprecedented period of time, [End Page 806] from 1953 to 1988. As I learned much later, an editorship requires a tremendous investment of time, at a cost to one's own research. I once asked Lasker why he continued serving as editor for all of those years. He explained to me that, although he was a physical anthropologist, his primary appointment was in the Department of Anatomy at Wayne State University. He believed that by editing one of the top journals in the field, he could keep up with the developments in the field and have some effect on its direction. For 35 years, Lasker gently guided Human Biology and had considerable intellectual impact on the field. In particular, he assisted the overthrow of the concept of typological race and the preoccupation of physical anthropologists with racial classification. In its stead, Lasker promoted a focus on human variation and its evolutionary causes. He was particularly kind to young and non-U.S. authors by helping them with the writing style of their articles and the vagaries of the English language and even instructing many of them on how to best analyze and present their research data.

In 1987, the publications committee of the Human Biology...