British scientist Sir Wilfrid Le Gros Clark was one of the most distinguished anatomists, neuroscientists and physical anthropologists of the twentieth century. He spent most of his career at the University of Oxford as the Chair of the Anatomy Department. This paper focuses on Le Gros Clark’s early career and provides a historical account of the three years he spent as a Principal Medical Officer in Sarawak, which was then a British controlled state on the island of Borneo. At Sarawak he carried out numerous medical, administrative, and educational duties, making significant improvements to the local health system. His success as the Principal Medical Officer came not only as a result of his medical knowledge and organizational skills, but also because of his extensive knowledge and understanding of the local cultures. Interested in the natural history of the country, Le Gros Clark also collected specimens of the local fauna. These would provide material for some of his most significant research carried out when he took an academic position in England. Years in Sarawak enriched Le Gros Clark not only as a scientist and medical practitioner, but also had a deep influence on his general outlook on life and personal development.
The alchemy of human variation: Race, ethnicity and Manoiloff's blood reaction
This paper examines the research on race determination conducted by Russian biochemist E.O. Manoiloff in the 1920s. Manoiloff claimed to have discovered a method which detected racial identity of an individual by a simple chemical reaction performed on a subject's blood sample. The method was published in one of the leading anthropological journals and it was not questioned for some time. It is obvious today that Manoiloff's claims were nothing short of ridiculous. The present study, based on the experimental history of sciences, tries to elucidate Manoiloff's procedures and reasons for his ‘success’. His experiments were repeated using both original and modern equipment. It has been demonstrated that Manoiloff's procedures, although rigorous at first glance, were highly arbitrary and methodologically flawed. It would appear that the socio-political and scientific contexts of the early twentieth century which favoured belief in the existence of clearly distinguishable racial types played a crucial role in the initial positive response to Manoiloff's research.