On the Racial Characteristics of Modern Jews.




Jacobs, Joseph, 1854-1916.


Journal : The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland ; vol 15.

London : Trübner & Co., 1885-6.

Description : [2 l] pl., 23–62 p. ; ill.: 28 phot. figs., engrs., tbls. ; 28 cm.

Photographs : 2 folding leafs of Galton composites and photographs, reproduced by heliotype.

Photographer : Sir Francis Galton.

Subject : Physiognomy — Photoanthropometry ; Jews.

Notes :



Expression.—Turning from the separate features of the Jewish face to that combination of them which we term expression, it might seem impossible to give anything more than subjective impressions. Thanks, however, to Mr. Gallon, science has been enabled to call in the aid of photography to obtain those averages which no measurements can supply. Some two years ago I applied to him to know whether he would assist me in obtaining composites of Jewish faces, and to this he was kind enough to consent. A number of photographs of Jewish boys were taken at the Jews' Free School, through the kindness of Mr. Angel, the well-known head-master of that admirable institution, and Mr. Galton was good enough to compound them in the way familiar to all here (vide F. Galton," Inquiries into Human Faculty," App. B, III). Plates I and II contain a number of the results, together with the individual components from which they were compounded. It will be observed that in the composite (C) containing the largest number of components (thirteen) the face has distinctly what is termed a Jewish expression, though it is fullfaced. It follows that the peculiar expression known as Jewish cannot be due to the droop of the nose alone. The full lips, the heavy eyelids, and large irides have much to do with it. —Page 38.


Explanation of Plates I and II.

The plates I and II accompanying this paper (first given in the Photographic News of April 17th and 24th, 1885, with articles by Mr. Galton and myself, the former explaining the process fully) give eight composites of Jewish lads on the left hand sides and opposite to the top and the bottom composite, the five components of which in eacli case they are composed. The middle composite on the right hand side is a co-composite of the other two, and thus practically contains the whole of the ten components. The composite on the extreme left is in each case that of five older lads who are not shown. The composites have capital letters attached to them, the components smaller letters corresponding to the former, Thus A is the composite produced by taking the photographs a1, a2, a3, a4, and a5 accurately one on top of the other on the same sensitized plate. The discrepant features blur out while the common characteristics intensify one another and produce a type of all the components. B represents in the same way b1 to b5, and C is then formed by superimposing A on B on the same negative.* D is a composite produced like A from five photographs of older youths which could not be given for want of space. Similar explanations apply to the composite E to H.

Of the fidelity with which they pourtray the Jewish expression there can be no doubt. Each of the eight composites shown might be taken as the portrait of a Jewish lad quite as readily as any of the components. In some cases, indeed, e.g., f3, the portraits are less Jewish than the composites. The individuality and, I may perhaps even add, the beauty of these composites are very striking. It is difficult, even for those who know the process, to grasp the fact that the composite E is anything but the portrait of an individual; and the same may be said of D, the composite of five older lads, whose portraits are not shown. A, again, the composite of the five a's, reminds me of several Jewish youngsters of my acquaintance, and might be taken for a slightly blurred photograph of any of them. This is the more curious since A does not resemble very closely any one of its components. These facts are something more than curious; they carry with them conclusions of scientific importance. If these Jewish lads, selected almost at random, and with parents from opposite parts of Europe, yield so markedly individual a type, it can only be because there actually exists a definite and well defined organic type of modern Jews. Photographic science thus seems to confirm the conclusion I have drawn from history, that there has been scarcely any admixture of alien blood amongst the Jews since their dispersion.—Pages 53-54.


Note by Mr. F. Galton.

The individual photographs were taken with hardly any selection from among the boys in the Jews' Free School, Bell Lane. They were the children of poor parents. As I drove to the school through the adjacent Jewish quarter, the expression of the people that most struck me was their cold, scanning gaze, and this was equally characteristic of the schoolboys.

The composites were made with a camera that had numerous adjustments for varying the position and scale of the individual portraits with reference to fixed fiducial lines; but, beautiful as those adjustments are, if I were to begin entirely afresh, I should discard them, and should proceed in quite a different way. This cannot be described intelligibly and at the same time briefly, but it is explained with sufficient fulness in the Photographic News, 1885, p. 244.—Page 62.


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The Galton composites that Jacobs commissioned for this paper were first published in the Photographic News, April 17th and 24th, 1885. Jacobs studied statistics under Galton in the 1880's. He was already a prominent editor and scholar of Hebrew literature at the time, but his association with Galton brought scientific dispassion and structure to his writings on Jewish culture. Both men would have been horrified to learn that their work came to be exploited by the Nazi eugenicist, Hans F. K. Günther (1891-1968).





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