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March 1998

Races, Clines, and Phototypes

Arch Dermatol. 1998;134(3):373-374. doi:

Subdivision of the human species has busied scholars for centuries. In particular, the question of races has become one filled with emotion and has also led groups to commit unspeakable crimes.

During the Enlightenment, when classification of everything ([Figure 1] Hebrew for under the sun) began, humans were classified as leukoderms, xanthoderms, and melanoderms (all from the Greek: leukos [Figure 2] meaning white; xanthos [Figure 3] meaning yellow; and melas [Figure 4] meaning black), or la race nègre, la race mongole, and la race arabe-européenne ou caucasique,1 or essentially only into the first 2 varieties or races.2 The term race (in French, race; in Spanish, raza; in Italian, razza; in German, Rasse; and in Russian, Figure 5) became increasingly popular but was discredited, much to the detriment of pigmented peoples, especially during the Holocaust, when Aryans killed Jews.