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I.1.3.2 Branch of Anthropology, their scope and relevance: (b) Biological Anthropology.

Physical anthropology also known as biological anthropology, analyses  the physical and biological facets of humankind from comparative, ecological, and evolutionary  approaches. Paul Broca- father of Physical Anthropology


It is natural history of the genus Homo and more concretely as the science whose objective is to study humanity as a whole and in relationship to rest of the nature.- Paul Broca

It is defined as science which studies variation, comparative study of the human body and its inseparable functions, exposition of the causes and courses of human evolution, transmission and classification, effects and tendencies in the functional and organic differences, etc.- Juan Comas,

Physical Anthropology comprises of biological evolution, genetic inheritance, human adaptability and variation, primatology, and the fossil record of human evolution.

Physical anthropology is largely an American and British concept while biological anthropology is German concept.

The subject matter of biological, or physical, anthropology is human biological diversity in time and space. The focus on biological variation unites five special interests within biological anthropology:

1. Human evolution as revealed by the fossil record (paleoanthropology).
2. Human genetics.
3. Human growth and development.
4. Human biological plasticity (the body’s ability to change as it copes with stresses, such as heat, cold, and altitude).
5. The biology, evolution, behavior, and social life of monkeys, apes, and other nonhuman primates.

Field of study

Physical anthropologists study such matters as the nature of racial differences; the inheritance of bodily traits; the growth, development and decay of human organism; the influence of natural environment on man. -Herskovits

The branch of anthropology that concerns the human and nonhuman primate evolution, the biological basis of human behaviour, and human biological variability and its significance.

Aim– to study

  • the broad based understanding of human organism
  • bio-cultural studies of human diversity,
  • the ancestors of human species, comparative anatomy,
  • ecology,
  • behaviour and history of primates,
  • human genetics,
  • growth and development and evolutionary history human physical structure
  • function and behaviour as modelled byenvironment


  1. man’s physical characters, their origin, evolution and development
  2. comparative science of man as a physical organism
  3. the fields of genetics and anthropometry


  1. Johann Friedrich Blumenbach – founder of physical anthropology, the inventor of craniology,
  2. James Cowles Prichard -races study
  3. Samuel George Morton – human variation, anthropometry
  4. Paul Broca -racial craniology
  5. Rudolf Virchow – impact of environment and disease upon the human variation
  6. Edward Tyson – primate behaviour
  7. Thomas Henry Huxley’s – primate evolution
  8. Ernst Haeckel- primate anatomy
  9. Karl Pearson- statistical tests like variation and correlation, and tests of significance
  10. Franz Boas-minimize race in favor of studying culture.


  1. Human Growth and Development:  concerns the process of growing to maturity
  2. Human Genetics: the study of inheritance ,classical genetics, cytogenetics, molecular genetics, biochemical genetics, genomics, population genetics, developmental genetics, clinical genetics, and genetic counseling.
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