Legacies of Eugenics project website December 2019

Launching the Legacies of Eugenics project

The subject of eugenics is back on the agenda for historians of science. I’ve been involved in the UCL Inquiry on the history and legacies of eugenics within that institution. My academic department has reviewed the range of its teaching in the subject. I’ve organised a new UCL module, Eugenics in Science and Culture. I’ve supervised several recent student projects. I’ve done some writing and…

Eugenics Poster - Only Healthy Seed Must Be Sown

Eugenics Teaching in US Colleges and Universities in 1914

In 1914, Journal of Heredity published a directory of US colleges and universities with eugenics courses. This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives a good indication of the range of institutions which supported this type of teaching. The method of data collection is not made clear. Source: Editor. 1914. “Eugenics in the Colleges,” Journal of Heredity 5(4): 186. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.jhered.a107837

Karl Pearson 1934 after retirement

Karl Pearson praised Nazi Race Hygiene policies

Did Professor Karl Pearson praise Hitler and Nazi ‘race hygiene’ programmes? Yes, he did. He did this in 1934, at a dinner to mark his retirement the previous year from University College London (UCL). Pearson was 77 in 1934, and he retired in 1933 from his position as Francis Galton Chair of National Eugenics at University College London, which he held since 1911. The National…

Logo from the Second International Eugenics Conference, 1921

HPSC0070 Eugenics in Science and Culture

Eugenics combined science and politics to create social policies intent on “improving the stock” of some human groups at the expense of others. This module investigates eugenics as a history of science and technology operating in cultures around the world. It considers eugenics as a history of people creating, interpreting, rejecting, and suffering from decisions grounded in scientific (and pseudo-scientific – this boundary is important)…

Historical analysis shows Karl Pearson was a racist nativist supremacist for Anglo-Saxon stock

Eugenics, Karl Pearson, and the Legacy of Anglo-Saxon Nativism at UCL

In September 2019 I gave a paper, “Eugenics, Karl Pearson, and the Legacy of Anglo-Saxon Nativism at UCL,” at a conference organised by the Research Group on University History held at the University of Manchester. In essence, it argues (1) Karl Pearson promoted a racist, nativist, supremacist programme favouring his vision of Anglo-Saxon stock, (2) he took advantage of his position within the university to…

Image from Cover - Farrall 2019 English Eugenics Movement 9781787510012

Farrall’s (1969) History of English Eugenics, 1865-1925, republished

The history of eugenics in Britain is far from hidden or forgotten. Many excellent papers and books explore the role of individuals (e.g., Francis Galton, Karl Pearson, Ronald Fisher, and Leonard Darwin to name only a few of the men involved) and the role of organisations (e.g., Eugenics Education Society). Eugenics in Britain has been studied in depth with an emphasis on class, gender, race,…

Profesor Karl Pearson at desk in Francis Galton Laboratory for National Eugenics

Karl Pearson and Mental Deficiency Act 1913 (UK)

What role did UCL biometrician and eugenicist Karl Pearson have in passage of this Act? Reading Angelique Richardson’s 2014 TLS piece on the Mental Deficiency Act (UK), effective 1914 repealed 1968, sparked me into condensing some research on that Act and possible involvement by Karl Pearson in its development and passage. We know a lot about the Mental Deficiency Act (UK). Wikipedia offers a quick…

George Gaylord Simpson, 1956 (courtesy American Philosophical Society Library).

George Gaylord Simpson’s “Night Thoughts on Leaving the American Museum,” 1959

George Gaylord Simpson (1902-1984) was a leader in twentieth century vertebrate palaeontology, and he contributed to making the American Museum of Natural History a powerhouse in the field. In 1959, Simpson left his job at the museum in a bitter dispute with its management. Simpson never published a rationale for his resignation, but he secretly wrote one. After his first day unemployed, Simpson penned a…