EUGENICS: The “Science” of Race

James Watson

Won the Nobel Prize for helping discover the structure of human DNA with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins.

The New York-based Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL)

https:// /2019/01/14/dna-pioneer-james-watson-stripped-of-honors-over-reprehensible-racist-views/

Rosalind Franklin

https :// 183


Term coined in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton (1882-1911) , cousin of Darwin, Animal Breeder, Tinkerer. Knighted by the Crown in 1909 for his work in developing the Academic discipline of Eugenics taught in colleges and universities in England and several professional organization dedicated to the purpose and work of the Eugenics movement.

Eugenics in Inquiries Into Human Faculty and Its Development 1883

Who shall inhabit the Earth?

Financially comfortableMental disorders
Substance abuse
Poverty (working class)
Criminal behavior
Sexual promiscuity
Illegitimate birth
illegitimate by birth
Non White as perceived by appearance

British Eugenics

Encouragement and financial support for:Deny financial charity for the poor
Marriage between Fit personsExclude poor children from health care and education
Multiple births from Fit parents

American Eugenics

Developed in the United States in 1902 by Charles Davenport ( 1866- 1944) whose privately funded Eugenic Records Office in Cold Spring Harbor, New York created hundreds of thousands of file cards on individuals considered unfit.

Cold Spring Harbor opened in 1910 and has never closed and today continues to work as a privately funded lab focused on “biological research and education.”

American Eugenics

Identify Fit personsDeny financial charity for the poor.
Encourage intermarriage between fit personsExclude poor children from Health care and education
Encourage multiple births from Fit parentsIQ Testing
Immigration laws
Enforced Sterilization Laws
Jim Crow Laws

Why the Difference?


Understanding Race

“A word from the 16th century, from Middle French race, earlier razza “race, breed, lineage, family” (16c.), possibly from Italian razza, of unknown origin (cognate with Spanish and Portuguese raza).

https :// etymonline_v_3255

This use of the word was used in the early days of the slave trade to distinguish between enslaver and enslaved. One was civilized and the other was savage.

“Race” thus evolved as a worldview, a body of prejudgments that distorts our ideas about human differences and group behavior.

American Anthropological Association, Statement on “Race” 2583

Understanding Race

The Great Chain of Being

Medieval concept of the order of the universe that “ordered” all plants and animals (humans are animals and we are on the top of the chain of animals)

Adam and Eve

Most Scientist prior to 1750 believed that all humans were born of this white couple


“Natural” Inequality

“Just as Some are by nature free, so others by nature are slaves, and for these latter the condition of slavery is just and beneficial.” On Politics, Book One

What happened?

Great Britain abolishes Slave Trade 1807, slavery in 1833. (America abolishes Slave Trade in 1808, slavery in 1865.)

The discussions leading up to the abolition of the slave trade in Britain hung on the answer to the question: Who should and should not be enslaved?

Slavery has always existed in all cultures. Slavery was typically a time sensitive practice. Slavery was typically a way to leverage power over one’s enemies. American Slavery was unique in that by law it was for life and generational following the mother.

A Word about Slavery

Rethinking the Great Chain of Being

Francis Bacon (1561–1626) was one of the leading figures in natural philosophy and in the field of scientific methodology in the period of transition from the Renaissance to the early modern era.

He defines the scientific method in Novum Organum (1620) /

Gregor Mendel () 1856-1863 Pea experiments not found until 1900

“Invisible Factors” basis for DNA hs1_mendel.htm

Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1798)

Systema naturae: A general system of nature through the three grand kingdoms of animals, vegetables, and minerals (1735) linnaeus.html

Thomas Malthus ,

Essay on the Principle of Population (1798)


Johann Blumenbach 1752-1840

Third edition of his MD thesis (1795) On the natural varieties of mankind. Five generic varieties:





Malays /

Blumenbach believed

The most beautiful people live in the Southern slope of Caucasus Mountains

People living further from away from this area degenerate into darker and darker shade of pigment

White we may fairly assume to have been the primitive colour of mankind. It is easy to change from white to brown but not vice versa.”

All humans are one species – 1 Race of Humans

https ://

Caucasus Mountains Home of the Most Beautiful Skulls

Contemporary Problem Solvers

Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) “Father of Paleontology”

Narrowed Blumenbach’s categories down to 3: Caucasian (white), Mongolian (yellow), and the Ethiopian (black).

Charles Darwin(1809-1882) wrote On the Origin of Species (1859)

Theory of Evolution biologist.html

Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) coined the infamous expression “survival of the fittest” a phrase that described social Darwinism.

C. 1850 /

Which Brings us Back to Charles Davenport

In 1902, Charles B. Davenport, then a Professor of Zoology at the University of Chicago, approached the Carnegie Institution with a request for $45,000 to create a “Biological Experiment Station for the study of evolution” on the Cold Spring Harbor Campus. This funding was provided by Mrs. Harriman, wealthy widow and the Kellogg family (the cereal company).

http :// /

A Word about the suffix “Oid”

The Suffix OID renders a noun into an adjective that describes a “resemblance” or “likeness” to a group of some kind. It was used predominantly by early scientists like the ones we just discussed. These terms were formed following this practice but it is difficult to locate a first usage for them





Benjamin Rush, Physician, signer of the Declaration of Independence, founder of Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

Possibly coined the term “Negroid” to describe a Leprosy-like disease that afflicted those who Blumenbach described as Ethiopian – Negroidism – black people(Ethiopians) were actually white (Caucasian) people afflicted with a skin disease.

https :// benjamin_rush

Back To American Eugenics “Protecting the “American” germ plasm”

Davenport published The Trait Book (1912) It was a systematic compilation of both genetic disorders and supposedly inherited characteristics that were to be recorded by field workers sent out by the ERO. essay4text.html

Supporters of American Eugenics

Stanford University President David Starr Jordan

Alexander Graham Bell

Winston Churchill

John Maynard Keynes

Woodrow Wilson

The Rockefellers

The Carnegie Foundation

Harry Laughlin

Davenport hired H.H. Laughlin as the superintendent of the Eugenics Records Office. His specialization was Sterilization Programs.

Positive Eugenics

Encourage those deemed “Fit” to marry and have many children.

Negative Eugenics

Immigration laws

Sterilization laws


IQ Testing

Jim Crow Laws

Financially comfortableMental disorders
Substance abuse
Poverty (working class)
Criminal behavior
Sexual promiscuity
Illegitimate birth
illegitimate by birth
Excessive Masturbation
Southern Italian or Eastern European
Non White as perceived by appearance

Immigration Laws

By linking undesirable traits with specific racial and ethnic groups, eugenicists scored a significant impact on social policy with the passage of restrictive immigration laws in the 1920s.

http :// essay4text.html

The 1924 National Origins Act, which restricted immigration to quotas that were based on the 1890 census—a census taken before the 20th century wave of eastern and southern European immigration.

Sterilization laws

The American Eugenics Society had hoped, in time, to sterilize one-tenth of the U.S. population, or millions of Americans. /

In the 1910s and 1920s, men were as likely to be sterilized as women were, but by the 1940s restrictions on reproductive choice were aimed at women.

http :// Platt_Eugenics.html

“From 1907 to 1937, 32 US states passed eugenic sterilization laws as part of a larger public health effort to combat degeneracy. Sterilization rates, which remained fairly steady in the 1910s and early 1920s as eugenics gained currency, increased markedly after the 1927 Buck v. Bell US Supreme Court decision (274 US 200), which upheld the constitutionality of Virginia’s sterilization law.The last sterilization law was only removed in 1981.


Buck v. Bell

We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

https :// / 200

California Sterilization law 1909

California passed the third law in the nation in 1909 and performed one third of all officially reported operations nationwide from the 1910s to the 1960s.”

The Nazis, when proposing their own sterilization program, specifically noted the “success of sterilization laws in California.”

A 2013 Center for Investigative Reporting article revealed that, between 2006 and 2010, close to 150 unauthorized sterilizations were performed in California prisons.

In March 2003, The California Senate considered a resolution, authored by Senator Dede Alpert (D-San Diego), that “expresses profound regret over the state’s past role in the eugenics movement” and “urges every citizen of the state to become familiar with the history of the eugenics movement, in the hope that a more educated and tolerant populace will reject any similar abhorrent pseudoscientific movement should it arise in the future.”

IQ testing

Clearly linked to the passage of compulsory sterilization laws – beginning in 1907

Robert M. Yerkes, 1914 Alpha and Beta Army Tests

8,000 men were recommended for immediate discharge on grounds of mental incompetence another 19,000 were assigned to labor and noncombat battalions.

Lewis Terman 1916 Stanford Binet Intelligence Test

Carl Brigham 1925 Scholastic Achievement Test

Life segregation or Euthanasia

This remedy must, in the opinion of the committee, be the principal agent used by society in cutting off its supply of defectives. Defectives must be, and with continually finer discrimination are being, segregated from the general mass of society; and it will require but little modification from the present custodial systems in effecting the eugenical end as well as protecting the immediate present-day society

from the socially inadequate individual, and administering to the latter’s most pressing needs.

BULLETIN No. 10A: Report of the Committee to Study and to Report on the Best Practical Means of Cutting Off the Defective Germ-Plasm in the American

Population. by HARRY H. LAUGHLIN, Secretary of the Committee, Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, New York, February, 1914 buckvbell

A little more science

“Neither for IQ nor for any other trait can genes be said to determine the organism…It is the genotype, not the phenotype, that is inherited. The genotype is fixed; the phenotype develops and changes constantly. The organism itself is at every stage the consquence of a develpmental process that occurs in some historical sequence of environments.”

Lewontin, R.C., Steven Rose, and Leon J. Kamin “IQ: The Rank Ordering of the World.” Found in The Racial Economuy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future. Edited by Sandra Harding.

Final Thoughts

The fairly obvious lesson to be learned is that where science appears to validate folk beliefs, it needs to be subjected to considerably higher standards of scrutiny than ordinary science.

Marks J. Racism, Eugenics, and the Burdens of History. IX International Congress of Human Genetics. 20 August 1996, Rio de Janeiro, 1996.

Why does any of this matter? YWyI77Yh1Gg