Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/11

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MAY, 1880.



THERE is a great diversity of opinion as to the reason of the differences of complexion to he observed among mankind. Roughly-speaking, the hue of the skin varies with the latitude, the fairer races having their homes at a distance from the equator; the darker, within or near the tropics. This fact would seem to point to the position of the sun with reference to those on whom he shines as the cause. But the question presents difficulties which this supposition does not aid us to solve.

At the same distance from the equator we find the fair Englishman, the yellow Mongol, and the copper-colored Indian. To the north of the white Russian and Finn live the swarthy Lapp and Samoyed. North of the Caucasus are dark-skinned Tartars, south of it fair-complexioned Circassians. The aborigines of America vary less in color than the natives of the Old World. None of them are as fair as the Swede, none as black as the negro of Congo, and those living in Brazil on the equator are not the darkest. There are blacker men in Australia and New Guinea than in Borneo and Sumatra, though these islands are on the equator and those are not. The Shillooks of the Upper Nile, who live about 10° north latitude, are blacker than the Monbuttoo who are six degrees farther south.

Many attempts have been made to explain these and similar facts. It has been asserted that mountaineers are fairer than lowlanders in the same latitude. This is generally the case, but there are some striking exceptions to the rule. The natives of the Mexican plateaus are as brown as those of the coast, and the Aymaras and Quichuas of

  1. This paper embodies the substance of a communication made to the Canadian Institute, Toronto, at a recent meeting.