The careful study of original documents is key to all historical investigations. Digital libraries offer many primary sources associated with the history and legacy of eugenics. We post those we find otherwise difficult to locate. These are available as open access, free to download pdf files. These materials are circulated as historical artefacts. The political and policy views are not endorsed.
We’ve assembled publications associated with several units at UCL. We’ve also included hard-to-find original source materials with direct relevance.
New material; better image quality
In collaboration with UCL Libraries, we supported a major Legacies of Eugenics digitisation project to make available the frequently obscure publications of the Eugenics Laboratory as well as some sister material from the Biometric Laboratory and some rare materials in the educational literature. These are available through UCL Special Collections and through Internet Archive (in the “uclmoderngeneticscollections” or “ucllibraries” collections). The short URL for access is <profjoecain.net/GLNE>. This material is open access, with detailed and accurate metadata. In general, these collections replace the pdf documents provided below. The new scans have better image quality. The metadata is better. The access is improved. All resources remain free under CC-BY-NC license.
Eugenics Record Office (ERO-Galton)
The Eugenics Record Office was short-lived, formed in 1904 and closed in 1906. Francis Galton was its patron and informal director. Staff included one male Research Fellow and one female research assistant. Farrall (2019 ) describes the history of this unit in detail.
Publications of the Eugenics Record Office (ERO-Galton) were few during the office’s short existence. However, Karl Pearson was quick to absorb projects from the Record Office and rebrand them as products of the Eugenics Laboratory. From one perspective, this moved the work into publication. From another perspective, this provided him with an impressive level of initial productivity as director of the eugenics research group and editor of the Eugenics Laboratory imprint.
The Eugenics Record Office (ERO-Galton) as initiated by Francis Galton was quite a different project from the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor (ERO-CSpH). They were independent.
The Eugenics Laboratory (formally the “Francis Galton Laboratory for National Eugenics” (GLNE) and also known as the “Galton Laboratory” and the “Eugenics Laboratory”) formally came into being in 1907 following an agreement between Francis Galton and Karl Pearson to have Pearson take under his supervision the failing Eugenic Records Office. Pearson showed considerable enterprise with the resources Galton’s patronage opened up. Within a few years, the Eugenics Laboratory was publishing four different serials under its own imprint, with a fifth serial begun in 1925. In addition, Pearson oversaw a great deal of additional publishing under the imprint.
The overall productivity of the imprint is discussed in Cain (2021). Pages in the Legacies Digital Library provide bibliographies for each of the series published under the Eugenics Laboratory imprint. These include:
- Eugenics Laboratory imprint as a whole
- Eugenics Laboratory Lectures
- Eugenics Laboratory Memoirs
- Treasury of Human Inheritance
- Questions of the Day and of the Fray
The Biometric Laboratory condensed from a range of activities begun in 1900-1901 in collaborations between Karl Pearson, WFW Weldon, and Francis Galton. Regular reference to it as a compact unit grows from 1904. Pearson obtained control of a significant donation to the University of London from the Worshipful Company of Drapers for use in the development of biometry. This support underwrote his creation of an imprint for the Biometric Laboratory. Under that imprint, he directed publication of three serials:
- Biometric Laboratory imprint as a whole
- Drapers’ Company Research Memoirs. Technical Series (Series A)
- Drapers’ Company Research Memoirs. Biometric Series (Series B)
- Drapers’ Company Research Memoirs. Studies in National Deterioration (Series C)
Not included in the Legacies Digital Library is the journal Biometrika, launched in 1901.
Through the Biometric Laboratory imprint, and later in association with Cambridge University Press, Pearson also oversaw a considerable range of additional publications associated with statistical and biometric research, for example statistical tables and handbooks. These have not been catalogued systematically.
International Eugenics Congresses
International Eugenics Congresses published proceedings and exhibition catalogues. These provide the most accessible record of activities associated with these events. As part of his competition to outrank other groups in the subject, Pearson famously prohibited staff in his units from attending these events. However, others associated with the history of eugenics at University College, University of London did participate.
Because we found materials on the first congress were hard to find, we developed materials for our Legacies Digital Library. We also assembled materials related to the much better studied second congress.
We’ve made available other publications associated the history and legacy of eugenics at UCL.
Digital repositories such as Internet Archives and BHL and HathiTrust hold vast stores of publications relevant to the history of eugenics at UCL. Several specialist sites also support focused study on Francis Galton, Karl Pearson, and others.
Publication of materials in the Legacies Digital Library is done strictly for historical and academic reasons. The work of eugenicists was pervaded by racial, ethnic, gender, and ableist prejudice. Readers must be alert to these biases in this material.
Reproduction of this work here is not an endorsement or promotion of the views expressed or eugenics in general. Quite the reverse. All articles are published in full, except where necessary to protect individual privacy. We believe there is a clear academic interest in making this historical material more widely available.