What Happened to 'Race' in Race Biology? The Swedish State Institute for Race Biology, 1936-1960

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The Swedish State Institute for Race Biology (SIRB) was founded in 1921 and immediately became the most important institution for racial science in Sweden. We know a great deal about the history of SIRB until 1935, when right-wing director Herman Lundborg retired and was replaced by the left-wing, anti-fascist Gunnar Dahlberg. In this essay, the later history of SIRB is for the first time examined systematically, starting in 1935 and ending with the reorganization of SIRB in the years around 1960, when the name was changed to the Institution of Medical Genetics at Uppsala University. The essay shows that while the majority of research projects at SIRB concerned medical genetics in the years 1936−1960, racial science never disappeared. SIRB scientists engaged in theoretical debates on the concept of race and conducted racial surveys of the Swedish population, using anthropometry and later serology as research methods. The results support the international hypothesis that racial science underwent important changes from the 1930s and onwards but did not really cease to exist.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-148
JournalScandinavian Journal of History
Issue number1
Early online date2020 Jun 30
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jan 7

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History


  • Gunnar Dahlberg
  • history of genetics
  • Race biology
  • racial science
  • racialization
  • the State Institute for Race Biology


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