The “eugenics tree” is one of the most reprinted images associated with the history of the subject. The source is Laughlin (1923: 15, figure 3). It was used at the Second International Congress of Eugenics (September 25-27, 1921), held at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City. The image was created for a certificate awarded “for meritorious exhibits” in the exhibition associated with the Congress.
The metaphor of a tree with many roots and branches was intended to identify eugenics as a subject with multidisciplinary sources and to encourage participation from many types of experts.
Analysists of eugenics tend to focus on genetics (such as Fisher at UCL) and statistics (such as Pearson at UCL), but need to keep a wilder view. Farrall (2019 ), for example, describes eugenics as an activity for “middle class radicals,” reaching well beyond professionals in particular disciplines.
The figure caption read:
“Life a tree eugenics draws its materials from many sources and organises them into an harmonious entity.”
Original Source for “Eugenics Tree” Illustration
Laughlin, Harry H. 1923. The Second International Exhibition of Eugenics Held September 22 to October 22, 1921, in Connection with the Second International Congress of Eugenics in the American Museum of Natural History, New York (Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins Company), 64p. + 47 illustrations.