Introducing the Basics

History and Pioneers

What is eugenics?

Galton’s interest in the heritability of intelligence was not only academic. He wanted to apply it to social policy so that only families with high intelligence would breed and the less fortunate would be discouraged from reproducing. These ideas were expressed in several books and later spread to numerous academic departments and international societies. The fact that he greatly discounted the impact of environment on intellectual development, specifically the effect of social class, racial discrimination and access to education, inevitably set the stage for prejudicial and racist applications of this theory. Moral questions regarding the civil rights of the genetically “less fit” were also neglected. Eugenics had significant impact on American immigration policies in the 1920s, justifying the restriction of Eastern and Southern European immigrants. Eugenics fell out of favor after the Nazis championed it in support of their genocidal policies.


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