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Broca goniometer for measuring angles of the face, France, 1862-1900

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Used to measure the ‘Jacquart’ angle of the face, the two arms of the device are placed on either side of the skull. The vertical measure is placed on the skull so the angle from brow to jaw can be read off the graduated dial at the bottom. The ‘Jacquart’ angle and other measurements of the face, such as the extension of the jaw, were used by anthropologists in the 1800s to classify human types and ‘races’, in the mistaken belief that some human groups were more evolved than others. Human types were then placed on an evolutionary ladder, inevitably with Europeans at the top. The device was invented by Paul Broca (1824-80), a French surgeon and anthropologist.

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Glossary: goniometer

An instrument for measuring angles, such as those made by joint movements.

Glossary: anthropometry

The measuring of body parts so that comparisons can be made. The aim is to measure normal and abnormal development. In the past, it has also been used in attempts to measure racial difference.

Glossary: physical anthropology

The study of humans, mainly their biological and physical make-up as well as their evolutionary history.

Glossary: anthropology

The social, cultural and geographical study of humans and humankind.

Glossary: craniometry

The study and measurement of different shaped and sized skulls.