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Grad Students

Iris I. Clever

Contact Information

Email    irisclever@ucla.edu
Office  6265 Bunche Hall

My research examines data practices in physical anthropology between 1880-1960. The dissertation project unearths various discussions, conflicts, and transformations regarding anthropometry, the chief technique for racial scientists. The rigor of technique and accuracy of the data produced was heavily debated among British and American physical anthropologists, as expressed in conflicts over standardization, statistics, and the classification of racial types. A focus on data and methods thus demonstrates deep divisions in the discipline well before World War II and complicates the common account of a simple typological approach characterizing physical anthropology before the war. I trace these debates and transformations by examining the spreading caliper, anthropologists’ main instrument, and the transnational data it was supposed to produce. 

Prospective applicants: feel free to email me if you have questions about our field and department! 

Fields of Study

History of Science and Medicine


My research focuses on the history of anthropometry from 1880-1960. In my dissertation, I discuss how anthropometry transformed from being the primary technique in physical anthropology to becoming an important method in post-war health and nutrition studies. Specifically, I follow the caliper, one of the most important instruments in anthropometry, and trace its development from measuring skulls to estimating subcuteanous fat. Other chapters focus on the various standardization efforts in the 19th and 20th century, the introduction of biometric approaches in physical anthropology, and the re-use of anthropometric data on skulls and bodies in present-day economic history. This dissertation brings together a transnational group of scholars whose work relied heavily on data practices and who were central to the development of physical anthropology (UK/US/Germany). Moreover, it traces the history of a single anthropological instrument: the caliper. The caliper not only connects the encounters during which measurements were taken with the production of data, it also allows me to trace the use of anthropometric methods after World War II: where the caliper mostly measured skulls and heads before the war, the instrument transformed into a skinfold device in the 1950s to meet the research efforts of health studies.


Iris Clever, "Book Review: 'Measuring the Master Race' by Jon Royne Kyllingstad," JRAI 24:1 (2018) 204-205.

Iris Clever, “Book Review: ‘Constructing Race’ by Tracy Teslow,” History of Anthropology Newsletter 40, no. 1 (2016): http://histanthro.org/book-review-constructing-race-by-tracy-teslow/.

I. Clever and W.G. Ruberg, "Beyond Cultural History? The Material Turn, Praxiography, and Body History," Humanities 3 (2014) 546-566."

Grants and Awards

2017-2019. E.J. Brandenburg Fund for Research Travel

2018. American Philosophical Society Library Fellowship

2017. CERS Dissertation Research Fellowship

2016. Peter Reill Summer Research Travel Stipend

2015. Predoctoral Research Fellow Max Planck Institute for the History of Science 

2015. Benjamin Nickoll Summer Research Travel Stipend

Conference Presentations

Scheduled talks:

“Tiresome anthropometric affairs.” Standardization efforts in the history of physical anthropology, 1880-1950," to be presented at: ISHPSSB Biennial Meeting. Oslo, July 8th 2019.

"Skulls and Statistics. Karl Pearson and Competing Methods of Classifying Races in the Early 20th Century," to be presented at: History of Science Society Annual Meeting. Utrecht, July 24th 2019. 

Past talks: 

“Unwieldy Calipers: How an Instrument Survived the 20th Century.” Transnational Conversations: Scientists and the Big Questions of Twentieth-Century History. Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin, 25 June 2018. 

“Reinventing the Caliper: Transforming Physical Anthropological Practices after World War II.” American Association for the History of Medicine Annual Meeting. Los Angeles, 10-13 May 2018.  

"Franz Boas, Statistics, and Intra-Populational Variation." American Philosophical Society Brown Bag Talk. Philadelphia, 3 April 2018. 

“What do Jean-Louis Baudelocque, Paul Broca, and Jack Tanner Have in Common? A Long History of the Caliper.” History of Science Graduate Student Meeting SoCal. UC Santa Barbara, 9 December 2017. 

“Finding a Formula for Race. Quantifying Racial Differences in Early Twentieth Century Physical Anthropology,” Histories of Anthropology: Transforming Knowledge and Power (1870-1970). University of Cambridge, 18-19 September 2017

“The Anthropological Politics of Scientific Universalism. Standardization in Anthropometry and Miriam Tildesley’s International Standardization Committee (1928-1945),” History of Anthropology Conference: the rise of university departments 1918-1945. Royal Anthropological Institute, London, 13-14 December 2016.

“Finding Unity in Anthropometry. The Establishment of the International Standardization Committee (1928-1934).” Symposium Body History Seminar: Paper Technologies. Utrecht University, 29 August 2016.


Dr. Soraya de Chadarevian (chair)
Dr. Theodore Porter
Dr. Andrew Apter
Dr. Lynn Hunt


M.A. History, Utrecht University, 2013.
B.A. History, Utrecht University, 2011.