Logo from the Second International Eugenics Conference in 1921
Eugenics is the pseudoscientific belief of improving the human race through selective breeding. Though forms of it still exist today (proponents focus on prenatal genetic screening, in vitro fertilization, and genetic engineering), its association with Nazism and the use of eugenics to rationalize the Holocaust have caused it to become thoroughly discredited.
Max-Bro blog has a fascinating post about the 33 disturbing but true facts about Eugenics. For example:
- Even with concentration camps, euthanasia campaigns and sterilization wards public knowledge in both Germany and America, early eugenic founders looked on with approval as Nazi Germany enacted brutal racial campaigns against its own citizens. Joseph DeJarnette, superintendent of Virginia’s Western State Hospital even complained in 1934, “Hitler is beating us at our own game.”
- The term “moron” comes from the eugenic movement. Coined by Henry Goddard, an early eugenic founder, it comes from the Greek word moros, meaning “stupid and foolish.” We use the term lightly these days as a kind of vague, almost teasing insult. For Goddard and the eugenic community, a “moron” was anyone deemed unfit for life and indeed a target to be eliminated.
- Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan served as a member of the state board of health and operated a sanitarium known for its unorthodox food regimens. He developed for his patients a natural product made of wheat flakes. In 1898 his brother, Will Kellogg, invented the corn flake and began selling it commercially through a company that would ultimately become the cereal behemoth the Kellogg Company. In the same year as the founding of the company, Dr. Kellogg founded the Race Betterment Foundation to help stop the “propagation of defectives.”
- For years one of eugenics greatest crusaders, Harry Hamilton Laughlin, fought to sterilize the feebleminded and people diagnosed with epilepsy. He was well known for believing that people with epilepsy did not belong in society. Laughlin was also known among colleagues for his occasional seizures. It turned out the doctor kept a tightly held secret for most of his life: Harry Laughlin, the attacker of the “unfit” and eugenic co-founder, himself had epilepsy.