Abstract This article suggests to focus on the history of human variation instead of focussing on the history of race science. It views the latter as a subset of the former, hence views race science as embedded into the larger field of life scientists' investigations into human variation. This paper explores why human variation is such an attractive and productive object particularly for the life sciences. It proposes that knowledge about human variation is incomplete in a promising way, and that it is of high instrumental value in the life sciences. I briefly illustrate the main points with an exemplary case, namely, population genetic studies of 'Roma'.