Origin of Term 'Caucasian'

I’ve often wondered about the origin of the term ‘Caucasian’. My assumption was that there was some logical reason to link all white people to this relatively small area in Eurasia. It turns out to be much more nonsensical, racist, and creepy.

While reading through Jason Roberts‘ truly excellent Every Living Thing, which explores the history of classifying living things into groups, he couldn’t help but touch upon the arbitrary nature of the term ‘Caucasian’. Here Roberts talks about the ridiculous origins of the term, which first appeared in On the Natural Variety of Mankind, by the German Johann Friedrich Blumenbach:

Blumenbach, however, did not hesitate to declare racial superiority. He was a collector of skulls, and in his opinion the prettiest specimen (in terms of pleasing proportions) in his collection was that of a female from the Caucasus, a mountain range between the Black and Caspian seas. Guided purely by personal aesthetics, Blumenbach wrote, “I have allotted the first place to the Caucasian,” explaining, “I have taken the name of this variety from Mount Caucasus… because its neighborhood, and especially its southern slope, produces the most beautiful race of men…”

Continues Roberts: “Blumenbach effectively combusted modern racism into existence.” I strongly recommend this book (Roberts’ not Blumenbach’s).