Myth and religion provided the earliest explanations of skin color.
Most early rational explanations ascribed skin color to climate.
Nineteenth-century pseudoscientific theories often supported the polygenist school, which stated that there were separate origins of the “races.”
Pseudoscientific misinformation, based on faulty or undocumented evidence, justified early twentieth-century sociopolitical prejudices.
The theory of evolution ended the polygenist argument and subsequently led to theories of skin color based on evolution.
Modern research led to the vitamin D/sunlight theory and an understanding of the evolutionary process behind skin color.
The Fitzpatrick skin type scheme classifies skin types by the response of the skin to sun exposure. A few dermatologists use this scheme to classify skin types, although sometimes without fully understanding its correlation to sun exposure.
Understanding of the biology of the melanin pigmentary system is based on research using light and electron microscopy.
The Human Genome Project, along with advances in DNA and the mapping of the genes, should help dermatologists to further understand skin diseases and their treatment.
Throughout history, the subject of skin of color has been shrouded in mystery, misconception, mystique, and misunderstanding. Since antiquity, people have sought answers to various questions, such as where skin color comes from, the skin color of the first humans, and why humans developed different skin colors [Table 1-1].1
TABLE 1-1Summary of historical perspectives on skin of color ||Download (.pdf) TABLE 1-1 Summary of historical perspectives on skin of color
|Originator of theory ||Date of theory ||Theory on skin of color |
|Native American Indians ||Exact date unknown || |
The creator had not yet perfected his cooking technique while creating humans, burning or undercooking the first humans and thereby causing differences in skin color.
Early men jumped into a body of water, progressively dirtying the water and coloring men’s skin darker and darker.
|African tribes ||Exact date unknown ||Distribution of the meat of an ox resulted in differing skin colors in those who ate different parts. |
|Ancient Greeks ||c. 1500–400 bc ||Phaeton flew the sun chariot too close to or too far from the earth, burning black those to whom he flew too close, and turning others pale when he flew too far away. |
|Abrahamic religions ||c. 1400 bc || |
Cain slew Abel in jealousy over God’s favor, and God put a dark mark on Cain and all of his descendants as punishment.
Ham was cursed with blackness because he disobeyed the prohibition against sexual intercourse aboard the ark.
Noah cursed Ham when he looked upon his father’s nakedness, resulting in a black mark of shame on all of Ham’s descendants.
Gehazi, servant of Elisha, was cursed with leprosy and the resulting white skin for having solicited money from Naaman.
|Leonardo da Vinci ||c. 1470 ad ||Humans’ different skin colors could be explained by the differences in environment. |
|Paracelsus ||1520 ||Black and white people (termed the children ...|