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Maura: The Woman Whose Brain Was Stolen and Stored by the Smithsonian 

Image: Advertisment created in 1904 for St. Louis World's Fair, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

As part of its series exposing how the Smithsonian Institution collected hundreds of brains from indigenous peoples, the Washington Post has highlighted the sad experience of a Filipino woman named Maura. Maura was brought from the Philippines to the United States in 1904 to take part in one of the public displays of indigenous people at the St. Louis World’s Fair. These public displays (now called “human zoos” by scholars) were designed to highlight non-white races thought to be lower on the evolutionary ladder. They were embodiments of Darwinian racism. I exposed what happened at the St. Louis World’s Fair in my award-winning documentary Human Zoos

As I explain in Human Zoos, the Smithsonian sent its Darwinist curator Aleš Hrdlička to St. Louis to gather brains from indigenous people who happened to die while on display at the fair. According to the Washington Post, Maura is apparently one of the people whose brains were harvested by Hrdlička. He sent her brain back to Washington, DC, as part of his racist brain collection, which he used to document the superiority of whites on the evolutionary ladder. 

After I produced Human Zoos, I visited St. Louis in an effort to track down the locations of where the human displays were located during the fair. I also located the building on the campus of Washington University where experiments were conducted on indigenous people during the exposition. You can watch all of these videos for free on YouTube.

Editor’s note: See also Dr. West’s article from yesterday, “Smithsonian’s Racist Brain Collection Exposed by Washington Post.”

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.



Aleš HrdličkabrainsDarwinian racismevolutionary ladderHuman ZoosMaurascientific racismSmithsonian InstitutionSt. LouisSt. Louis World’s FairWashington PostWashington UniversitywhitesYouTube videos