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Posts by David Micklos
The recent completion of the maize (corn) genome sequence gives us pause to think about the historical connection between agriculture and eugenics. It also causes us to consider why the leading American eugenicist, Charles Davenport, failed take greater stock in the corn research going on at one of several institutions he presided over at Cold Spring Harbor.
Especially in the United States, eugenics was firmly grounded in agriculture. Many of the leaders of the American movement had backgrounds in plant and animal breeding. For example, prior to becoming superintendent of the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) at Cold Spring Harbor, Harry Laughlin had More >
Francis Galton, the English scientist who coined the term, defined eugenics as “the agencies under social control that improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations either physically or mentally.” Charles Davenport, the father of the American eugenics movement called it simply “the self direction of human evolution.”
These definitions stress differences that occupied either end of a continuum of eugenics practice. At one end, Galton’s definition stressed social control, or laws, to control human reproduction. At the other end, Charles Davenport’s stressed an individual’s own control over their reproduction. Social control ultimately embodied “negative eugenics”– limiting mixed race marriages, More >