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Dr. W. Montague Cobb's Calipers



Anthropologist and activist Dr. W. Montague Cobb (1904–1990) applied his research to challenging theories of scientific racism and fighting racial discrimination in access to health care. Cobb used instruments like these calipers to measure different parts of the human body. He conducted comparative studies of anatomy based on the extensive collection of specimens and data that the Howard University laboratory gathered over nearly 40 years. In one of his most famous studies, “Race and Runners,” Cobb used anatomical data from track-and-field champion Jesse Owens as a basis to prove there was no measurable racial difference between Black and white athletes. Cobb’s pioneering work paved the way for future generations of African American anthropologists and demonstrated that science could be a tool in the struggle for racial equality.