Origin of humans

Not to be confused with Anthropogenics, Anthropization, or Anthropology.

Anthropogeny is the study of human origins. It is not simply a synonym for human evolution, which is only a part of the processes involved in human origins. Many other factors besides biological evolution were involved, ranging over climatic, geographic, ecological, social, and cultural ones. Anthropogenesis, meaning the process or point of becoming human, is also called hominization.

History of usage

The term anthropogeny was first used in the 1839 edition of Hooper's Medical Dictionary[1] and was defined as "the study of the generation of man". The term was popularized by Ernst Heinrich Haeckel (1834–1919), a German naturalist and zoologist, in his groundbreaking books, Natural History of Creation[2] (German: Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschicht) (1868) and The Evolution of Man [3](German: Anthropogenie) (1874). Haeckel was one of the first biologists to publish on evolution. Haeckel used the term Anthropogeny to refer to the study of comparative embryology and defined it as "the history of the evolution of man". The term changed over time, however, and came to refer to the study of human origins.[4]

The last use of the word anthropogeny in English literature was in 1933 by William K. Gregory.[5] There was a gap in the usage of the term from 1933 to 2008. Anthropogeny was reintroduced in 2008[6] and is now back in academic use at the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA) at the University of California, San Diego.

Anthropogeny vs. anthropology

The root anthropos means human, -logia means discourse or study, and -geny means origin. Anthropology, therefore, is quite literally the study of humans, whereas anthropogeny is the study of the origin of humans.

According to Gregory (1933), anthropologists are interested in measuring and quantifying aspects of being human, whereas anthropogenists are interested in "piecing together the broken story of the 'big parade' that nature has staged across the ages".[5]

There is some overlap between anthropology and anthropogeny, as both are interested in the study of humans. The field of anthropology has origins in the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences. Anthropology is typically divided into four sub-fields: social anthropology or cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and archaeology. The field of anthropogeny is also influenced by the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences, however, given that it is the study of the origin of humans, it is also influenced by fields ranging from anatomy and biomechanics to neurology and genetics.

A comprehensive list of Domains of Scientific Discipline relevant to anthropogeny can be found in the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA).

See also