Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis and his Contributions to Anthropology

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

Architects of Anthropology in India


Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis (popularly known as PC Mahalanobis) was a multifaceted renaissance man and a genius polymath. He was a physicist by academics, a statistician by inclination, and a dreamer by determination. Blossoming statistics was then similar to prospecting a different arena. Professor Mahalanobis made some profound contributions through his anthropological observations integrating statistics as a key technology. His deep interest in anthropometric measurements, ranging from demographic aspects to genetic affinities and variations of human populations, led to the formation of the ‘Anthropometry Unit’ at the Indian Statistical Institute in 1963. While doing the anthropometric measurement of Anglo-Indians, Mahalanobis formulated his D-Square statistics(well-known as Mahalanobis Distance). However, the revision ofRisley’s anthropometric data relating to the castes and tribes and the statistical study on the anthropometric survey of the UnitedProvinces (with a historical note on the D2-Statistics, pp.237-239)are certainly mentionable. Mahalanobis gave an important statistical analysis of Race-mixture in Bengal based on measurements of Anglo-Indians. He also conducted various Anthropometric surveys in India and abroad. Say, for instance, the Anthropometric Survey of India (1926), the Anthropometric Survey of the United Provinces(1941), Bengal Anthropometric Survey (1945).

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Publication Date

Winter 12-12-2023


The book is edited by Sarthak Sengupta