Eugenics includes a wide range of programmes to manage the hereditary contribution of individuals to the next general. Some approaches focused on individuals and pedigrees. Others focused on statistics and census information. Eugenics programmes always were controversial in the places and periods they were proposed. They were widely understood to be overtly and covertly discriminatory. Eugenics campaigns didn’t need science, but some deployed science to make their arguments seem stronger (and some scientists took central roles in these campaigns because they thought science would improve the campaigns). The relationship between eugenics and scientists is a subject of significant research.


As a working definition:

Eugenics is a set of beliefs and practices that aim to improve the genetic quality of a human population by excluding (through a variety of morally criticized means) certain genetic groups judged to be inferior, and promoting other genetic groups judged to be superior. The definition of eugenics has been a matter of debate since the term was coined by Francis Galton in 1883. The concept predates the term; Plato suggested applying the principles of selective breeding to humans around 400 BCE. (Wikipedia 2019, “eugenics”)

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “eugenic” (adj):

“Pertaining or adapted to the production of fine offspring, esp. in the human race” (OED)

It cites Galton (1883) Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development as the first use:

“…Various topics more or less connected with that of the cultivation of race, or as we might call it, with ‘eugenic’ questions.” (Galton 1883: 24)

OED also defines “eugenics” (n, plural [after analogy of economics, politics, etc.]):

“The science which has this for its object…”

It cites the same work as first use:

“The investigation of human eugenics, that is, of the conditions under which men of a high type are produced.” (Galton 1883: 44)

Original source

Galton (1883) Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development