The Encyclopedia of Bioethics "Eugenics" entry notes that the term has had different meanings in different eras: "a science that investigates methods to ameliorate the genetic composition of the human race, a program to foster such betterment; a social movement; and in its perverted form, a pseudo-scientific retreat for bigots and racists" (V, Ludmerer 1978, p. Kevles, with a stronger emphasis on its degeneration, says that by 1935 "eugenics had become `hopelessly perverted' into a pseudoscientific facade for `advocates of race and class prejudice, defenders of vested interests of church and state, Fascists, Hitlerites, and reactionaries generally'" (I, Kevles 1985, p. Phrases such as "survival of the fittest" and "struggle for existence" came into use at the end of the 19th century when eugenics societies were created throughout the world to popularize genetic science.`Positive eugenics' tried to encourage the population perceived as the "best and brightest" to have more offspring (V, Ludmerer, 1978, p. In the United States, after World War I, new ideas like the importance of environmental influences and the more complex concept of multi-gene effects in inheritance had slowed scientific justification for eugenics, but this knowledge did not slow pressure for legislation, judicial action, or immigration controls. In Germany interest in eugenics flourished after the turn of the century when Dr.Alfred Ploetz founded the Archives of Race-Theory and Social Biology in 1904 and the German Society of Racial Hygiene in 1905.
Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan.
The word eugenics (from the Greek eugenes or wellborn) was coined in 1883 by Francis Galton, an Englishman and cousin of Charles Darwin, who applied Darwinian science to develop theories about heredity and good or noble birth. `Negative eugenics' utilized marriage restriction, sterilization, or custodial commitment of those thought to have unwanted characteristics. Immigration Restriction Act of 1924 favored immigration from northern Europe and greatly restricted the entry of persons from other areas referred to as "biologically inferior." Between 19 thirty-two states required sterilization of various citizens viewed as undesirable: the mentally ill or handicapped, those convicted of sexual, drug, or alcohol crimes and others viewed as "degenerate" (V, Larson 1991).
The word eugenics is taken from the Greek root, “eugenes,” namely good in stock or hereditarily endowed with noble qualities.
Galton coined the term in his 1883 book, “Inquiries into the Human Faculty and its Development.” The idea was to propose a way to ‘give to the more suitable races …
Many of these reformers used inappropriate eugenic explanations for their management of those deemed to be socially undesirable: so-called “mental defectives” (which included those labeled with newly-created clinical terms like “imbeciles,” “idiots,” and “morons”); the blind, deaf, mentally ill and “crippled”; orphans, unwed mothers, epileptics, Native Americans, African Americans, foreigners, poor residents from the mountains and hollows of Appalachia and many other “outsider” groups.
“Inferior races,” eugenic theorists concluded, were a drain on the economic, political and moral health of American life.One of the biggest fans of the American eugenics movement was Adolf Hitler, the chancellor of Nazi Germany.When the world discovered the role eugenics played in Hitler’s campaign to cleanse the Third Reich of its “unfit,” it drummed a final nail into the eugenics movement coffin.Indeed, few of the “social eugenics policies” had a greater impact than the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924, which blocked the entry of the millions of Eastern and Southern European and Asian immigrants seeking refuge on our shores for the following 40 years.How many millions of them died or lived tortured lives in their native lands because of this stringent and prejudiced policy is difficult to enumerate.Goddard, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, R-Mass., auto magnate Henry Ford, inventor of the telephone Alexander Graham Bell, botanist Luther Burbank, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Robert A.Millikan, a Nobel laureate in physics, novelists Upton Sinclair and Sinclair Lewis, economist William Z. Dubois, and the creator of the wellness movement, Dr. The solution of the day was to quarantine, cordon off and prevent these “undesirables” from contaminating the “superior” mostly white, native-born citizens.Sitting in the audience were Britain’s Prime Minister Lord Balfour, Winston Churchill and Charles Darwin’s son Leonard, along with the ambassadors of Greece, France and (wait for it) Norway.During the Progressive era (1900-1920), a generation of American reformers sought to fix several social problems of the day, which included urban poverty, assimilating the huge number of immigrants coming to American shores, and public health crises such as epidemics, high infant mortality rates and explosive population growth.Yet this bit of history reminds us to constantly evaluate and test our theories for evidence of racism and prejudice before implementing them and harming the innocent. Howard Markel writes a monthly column for the PBS News Hour, highlighting the anniversary of a momentous event that continues to shape modern medicine.A sign that reads "Stop" placed near a barb wire is seen at the concentration camp during a ceremony marking the 68th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz by Soviet troops and to remember the victims of the Holocaust, in Auschwitz Birkenau . He is the director of the Center for the History of Medicine and the George E.