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Eugenics Pursuing the Betterment of Humanity Defining Eugenics Originally, the idea of eugenics, “well born”, was introduced in the 1880s by Sir Francis.

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Presentation on theme: "Eugenics Pursuing the Betterment of Humanity Defining Eugenics Originally, the idea of eugenics, “well born”, was introduced in the 1880s by Sir Francis."— Presentation transcript:


2 Eugenics Pursuing the Betterment of Humanity

3 Defining Eugenics Originally, the idea of eugenics, “well born”, was introduced in the 1880s by Sir Francis Galton. Eugenics derived partly from the agricultural model of breeding the strongest, most capable crops, and not allowing weak species to reproduce. “Eugenics is the study of agencies under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations, either physically or mentally”- Sir Francis Galton, 1904 Eugenics can be identified under two categories, positive eugenics and negative eugenics.

4 Defining Eugenics Cont’d. Positive Eugenics: gene manipulation designed to improve the characteristics of an organism or species. Negative Eugenics: systematic elimination of undesirable traits through the sterilization of the socially inferior. From the late 1800s to mid 1900s, negative eugenics appeared across the USA,Germany and even Canada.

5 Eugenics, a History “Society must look upon the germ-plasm as belonging to society and not merely to the individual who carries it”- The Best Practical Means of Cutting off the Defective Germ-plasm in the Human Population, 1912 Early 20 th century literature suggested the need for collecting genetic information from families, ethnic groups and races to determine desirable traits. Eugenic Record Office, Cold Spring Harbor, NY founded by Charles B Davenport in 1910.

6 Eugenics, a History Cont’d. Questions raised by the organization included: who produced and how often, and the sexual sterilization unfit parents (ethical debate on definition of unfit), and whether to reduce the number of immigrants deemed racially inferior. Eugenic Record Office carried out research by gathering pedigrees of thousands of families. Eugenics Record Office and Human Betterment Foundation of California openly supported the race measures used in Nazi Germany.

7 Eugenics, the Reality After 1930, some eugenicists began to question the ethics and scientific validity. In 1933, Canada had its own Canadian Eugenics Society and both B.C and Alberta had legislation allowing sterilization of the mentally ill, mentally handicapped as well as inmates of provincial institutions. The Depression caused people who were once members of high society to be dependant on welfare. Eugenicists believed that being wealthy and successful were completely due to genetics. With so many successful people now being dependant on welfare, questions were raised.

8 The Reality Cont’d At the same time, the Depression caused some eugenicists to believe that sterilizing “unfit” parents was a solution to the country’s economic downfall. They believed it would create less welfare dependant families. In 1930, the American Eugenics Society had 1250 members and presented eugenics exhibits at state fairs encouraging families of upper class to reproduce for the betterment of society. In 1941, 33 US states endorsed sterilization programs. IQ tests based on English reading comprehension were given to the immigrants arriving at Ellis Island NY. Henry H. Goddard found that 80% of Swedish, Russian, Polish, Hungarian and Italian to be mentally deficient.

9 Justifying Eugenics Across America Citizens of minority cultural decent feared that being seen as inferior to the white race would result in them losing their race completely Eugenicists claimed that by being sterilized and not reproducing, it was helping strengthen American Society. At the other extreme, President Theodore Roosevelt claimed that the inability of couples of Anglo-Saxon decent to produce large families would lead to “race suicide”.

10 The Fading Out of Eugenics in America With the beginning of the second World War, Nazi’s shifted their eugenics program from sterilization to euthanasia. By doing so, the eugenics programs being practiced in North America were quickly frowned upon. Canadian/American eugenic enthusiasts were forced to silence any future plans.

11 Eugenics in the 21 st Century Focus has turned from negative eugenics to positive eugenics. Steady advances are being made in the area of somatic and germline engineering. Somatic Therapy: changes only take place in somatic cells of the body and consequently do not transfer into the offspring. Germ Line: genetic changes are made to the sperm, egg or embryonic cells and are passed to the offspring.

12 Positive Eugenics: A Slippery Slope With the use of biotechnology, gene therapy and stem cell research, scientists can manipulate genes that lead to disease from being passed down to the off spring. With advances such as this, what is stopping the medical community from using biotechnology to engineer a “perfect” human. With this ability increasing at such a rapid rate, now it is more important than ever for ethics boards to monitor the decisions made in the genetic community.

13 Works Cited Claude Moore Health Sciences Library (2004). Orgins of Eugenics. Retrieved on Friday May 9 th 2009 from origins.cfm origins.cfm Haller, Mark H. (1963). Eugenics. New Jersey, Rutgers University. Judge, Lora (2002). Eugenics. Retrieved on Friday May 9 th 2009 from McLaren, Angus (1990). Our Own Mater Race. Toronto Ontario, The Canadian Publishers. Rifkin, Jeremy (2005). Commercial Eugenics in the 21 st Century. Retrieved on Saturday May 10 2009 from ______. What is Eugenics? Past and Present Perspectives. Retrieved on Saturday May 9 th from

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