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Mr. America's Creator: The Race Science of Dr. Ales Hrdlicka, 1896-1943

Magaña, Linda

After nearly half a century’s work to establish the field of American physical
anthropology, Dr. Ales Hrdlicka1 died quietly in his home in Washington, D.C. on September 5,
1943. A leading public intellectual, Hrdlicka had been the director of physical anthropology at
the Smithsonian Institute for forty years. He was an original proponent of the Bering Strait
theory of migration, at the time a controversial position arguing that the first humans in the
Americas migrated from Asia across a land bridge roughly 12,000 years ago. A survey of
Hrdlicka’s resume, full of similarly impressive accomplishments, glosses over the nuanced and
complicated intellectual development of this Bohemian-born American physical anthropologist.
This thesis explores the tension embedded in Dr. Hrdlicka’s conceptual vision, a vision limited
by his—and to a large extent, the nation’s—obsession with the quantification of race.

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Academic Units
History
Thesis Advisors
Ngai, Mae
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 6, 2011
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