In the 1840s the American scientist Samuel George Morton had over a thousand skulls from all over the world. He divided them by race. He said that those of the Mongolian race had only 95% as much space for the brain as the Caucasian ones did. But to get that low figure he left out his largest Chinese skull and all his Eskimo skulls – and gave no reason for it.
In the 1860s British physician Dr John Langdon Down discovered Down syndrome as a particular disorder. Only it was not called Down syndrome till a hundred years later. Before then it was called mongolism and its sufferers were mongoloids. Because even when born to Caucasian parents their eyes and other features made them look as if they were part Mongolian by race. To Dr Down that was no accident: “there can be no doubt that these ethnic features are the result of degeneration.”
In the 1870s French scientist Paul Broca, who measured skulls much more carefully than Morton, found that some Mongolians had bigger skulls than white people did, like Eskimos, Tartars, Malays and Lapps. But he said it was not overall size that mattered but how big the front part of the skull was – the seat of intelligence. And there Caucasians were still on top.
In the 1890s French scientist Alfred Binet, following Broca’s advice, set out to measure the intelligence of French schoolchildren by measuring the front of their heads. But no matter how carefully he made his measurements, they did not match up with what their teachers reported of their intelligence. So he tried a completely different approach: he invented the IQ test.
In the 1960s America eased limits on Asian immigration, but favoured those with better educations, like doctors, nurses, engineers and university students. A side effect of that brain drain has been the model minority stereotype, of Asians having more natural intelligence than even white people.
In the 1970s the scientific racist Pioneer Fund started supporting studies to prove that Asians are naturally more intelligent than whites. It uses those studies to defend itself against the charge of being white supremacist.
In the 2000s one of its scientists, Richard Lynn, said that the Chinese and Japanese have an IQ of about 106. But, as it turns out, his Japanese IQ was based on testing well-to-do Japanese. Meanwhile his Chinese IQ was based on testing Chinese Americans in San Francisco in the 1970s with an out-of-date test from the 1950s – one on which whites of the time would have done even better due to the Flynn Effect (where average IQs go up by about 0.3 points a year).
Even the Pioneer Fund admits that there has been no broad IQ testing of Asia. So we are back to where Morton was over 150 years ago, drawing conclusions about Asian intelligence based on bad sampling and current stereotypes.