Attempts have been made to classify humans since the 17th cent., when scholars first began to separate types of flora and fauna. Johann Friedrich Blumenbach was the first to divide humanity according to skin color. In the 19th and early 20th cent., people such as Joseph Arthur Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, mainly interested in pressing forward the supposed superiority of their own kind of culture or nationality, began to attribute cultural and psychological values to race. This approach, called racism, culminated in the vicious racial doctrines and anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany and was used to justify slavery and segregation (see integration) in the United States, apartheid in the Republic of South Africa, and European imperialism and colonialism generally.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.