Why were people with down’s syndrome called Mongoloids?

Medically Reviewed by Checkmark Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Sravanthi Sunkaraneni
John Down hypothesized that children with Down syndrome resembled the proposed mongoloids, as reported by German physician Johann Friedrich Blumenbach. Furthermore, in 1924, F. G. Crookshank published The Mongol in Our Midst, alleging that the syndrome was passed down from Mongoloid races. Because this term was deceptive. Henceforth, WHO abolished the term in 1965 at the request of the Mongolian People's Republic. Thus, term "mongoloids" is no longer used.

Resources state that John Langdon Down first described the syndrome that now bears his name as a distinguishable form of mental disability in 1862, and in a more widely published report in 1866. Due to his perception that children with Down’s syndrome share facial similarities with the perceived mongoloids that German physician Johann Friedrich Blumenbach described as the “Mongolian race”, Down used the term “mongoloid” in his characterization of those with Down’s syndrome.

The term Mongoloids was used in ancient times with reference to a racial grouping of various people indigenous to large parts of Asia, the Americas, and some regions in Europe and Oceania. The term is no longer used as it creates racial discrimination and is a now-disproven biological race theory. 

The term was used in a journal published in 1908 by W. Bertram Hill bearing the name Mongolism and its Pathology. It was also used by English psychiatrist and geneticist Lionel Penrose as late as 1961.

In 1924, F. G. Crookshank published a book named The Mongol in our Midst which suggested that the syndrome was due to genetic traits literally inherited from Mongoloid races. In 1977, a song was released by the Rock band Devo titled “Mongoloid”, describing a man with Down Syndrome.

In 1961, genetic experts wrote a joint letter to the medical journal The Lancet which read: “The term Mongoloids leads to misleading connotations. The importance of this anomaly among Europeans and their descendants is not related to the segregation of genes derived from Asians; its appearance among members of Asian populations suggests such ambiguous designations as ‘Mongol Mongoloid’; increasing participation of Chinese and Japanese in the investigation of the condition imposes on them the use of an embarrassing term.”

In 1965, WHO resolved to abandon the term at the request of the Mongolian People’s Republic. Despite decades of inaction to change the term and resistance to abandoning it, the term thereafter began to fade from use, in favour of its replacements, down’s syndrome, down syndrome, and trisomy 21 disorder. 

At present, terms like ‘mongoloids’ are no more used and shall be avoided in order to create an inclusive environment.

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Disclaimer
Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can further read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

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