The Controversial Carleton Coon

By: Alessandro Pezzati

Originally Published in 2012

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Carleton Coon studied human and animal skeletons. He is shown in his office with two specimens of animals.
Carleton Coon studied human and animal skeletons. He is shown in his office with two specimens of animals.

Carleton S. Coon (1904–1981) was a Curator and Professor at the University of Pennsylvania until his retirement in 1963. He had a colorful personality; he did not believe that scholars should be stuffy or pompous. That made him a fan-favorite on the Museum’s What in the World? television show. Coon was one of the last “generalist” anthropologists—proficient in archaeology, physical anthropology, and cultural anthropology. His main areas of study were human prehistory and issues related to race.

He was controversial as well, and has therefore faded somewhat from scholarly memory. His The Origin of Races, written in 1962, in which he posited that the human races had evolved separately, was a racist tract, sometimes cited as justification for segregation.

Cite This Article

Pezzati, Alessandro. "The Controversial Carleton Coon." Expedition Magazine 54, no. 3 (December, 2012): -. Accessed April 16, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/expedition/the-controversial-carleton-coon/


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