Carleton S. CoonCarleton Stevens Coon, was an eminent American anthropologist, born June 23, 1904 in Wakefield, Massachusetts. He attended post secondary education at Harvard University, earning his A.B., A.M., and Ph. D.. After he completed his degree in 1948, Coon taught at Harvard, later that year becoming Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania until 1963. He also became Curator of Ethnology at the University Museum in Philadelphia. Coon was active in both archaeology and cultural/physical anthropology. He conducted controversial studies of the origins and modern variations of human racial types.
His books include The Origins of Race, The Story of Man, The Races of Europe, Races: A Study of the Problems of Race Formation in Man, The Hunting Peoples, Living Races of Man, Seven Caves: Archaeological Exploration in the Middle East, Adventures and Discoveries: The Autobiography of Carleton S. Coon, Mountains of Giants: A Racial and Cultural Study of the North Albanian Mountain Ghegs, Yengema Cave Report, and Caravan.
Starting in the late 1950s, Coon's work increasingly attracted the ire of younger anthropologists, most notably Ashley Montagu, who believed it essentially racist. However, Coon's work was characterized by careful, fully documented field observation and measurement while that of his detractors was often based essentially on abstraction driven by social ideals. As of the turn of the millennium, Coon's opponents have effectively brought the newer generations of students to their view and race is widely held by them to be useless in any formal taxonomic sense. But concurrent expansion in the use of the terms "ethnic group" or "ethnic origin" and the substitution of the term "population" as a near synonym for "race" in many contexts show how difficult it will be to eradicate all notions of sub-specific human classification.
Coon served in the US Air Force in 1956-1957 and in the United States Office of Strategic Services during World War II. He was a member of the National Academy of Science and served as President of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists from 1961-1962 (Academic American Encyclopedia,1995). Coon died on June 6, 1981, in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
"It is the retention by twentieth-century, Atom-Age men of the Neolithic point of view that says: You stay in your village and I will stay in mine. If your sheep eat our grass we will kill you, or we may kill you anyhow to get all the grass for our own sheep. Anyone who tries to make us change our ways is a witch and we will kill him. Keep out of our village."
—The Story of Man, 1954, page 376