POSING FOR POSTURE

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If Lanier is correct, Harvard and other Ivy League colleges may have been the victims of one of the biggest jokes in the history of the American academy.

College administrators around the country may have realized this when they began to distance themselves from Sheldon and his work in the 1960's.

Sample says scientists realized that Sheldon's work had little scientific value. "Many thought his observations were overly subjective because he [alone] did most of the observation and ratings of his photographs," Sample says.

Holt agrees, postulating that Sheldon could not separate his personal biases from his scientific work.

"Sheldon didn't have any way of blinding himself to the physique while he assessed the temperament," Holt says. "The correlations he published were not worth very much," he says. "Sheldon deceived himself."

Sheldon's relatively sudden plummet from national celebrity into obscurity bruised his ego, Holt says.

"For a while, Sheldon was riding high and had access to a great deal of data," Holt says. "People began getting nervous about that and began closing doors and that must've been difficult for him."

As Sheldon's popularity declined, his paranoia and racist sentiment grew, Sample says.

"Sheldon grew increasingly defensive and paranoid as his ideas lost favor," Sample says. "As people attacked his teachings, he grew increasingly isolated and ended up that way at the end of his life--reading detective stories."

Once a famous researcher, Sheldon passed his final years reading mysteries in a rented room before dying in 1977, Sample says.

Parallels to The Bell Curve

Hersey says a clear parallel exists between Sheldon's research and that of another controversial former Harvard professor--The Bell Curve, co-authored by the late Richard J. Herrnstein.

"Sheldon is the predecessor to The Bell Curve," Hersey says. "[Both are examples of] biological determinism: your genetic heritage that determines the parameters of your intelligence and other things like criminality."

Sample also says he sees the commonality between works, calling Sheldon the "Herrnstein of the 1940's...Sheldon might think that since you're Black or Mexican you are limited in attainment and won't be a brilliant achiever."

Lanier defends Sheldon, saying his research is no worse than current genetic technology.

"Today the people who might be against Sheldon, claiming he believed in eugenics, have no hesitation in saying marrying couples should get genetic counselling." Lanier says. "Eugenics is in full flower today but nobody wants to admit it."