The History of Eugenics
How many ideas have there been in the history of
mankind which were unthinkable ten years before and
which, when their mysterious hour struck suddenly
appeared, and spread all over the earth?
Plato’s The Republic
“The best men must have intercourse with the best
women as frequently as possible, and the opposite is
true of the very inferior.“
Proposed the establishment of a fixed lottery in which
each person was assigned a “marriage number”
corresponding to a quantitative assessment of their
He believed this system would lead to a predictable
improvement of the human race.
Evidence of Eugenics in History
 Sparta:
phenotypic selection through
Weak or undesirable babies were abandoned
 Rome:
Fourth Table of Roman stated that deformed
children would be put to death
Sir Francis Galton
Inspired by Darwin’s Origin of Species
He believed societies in favor of spending resources on
the weak were in opposition to natural selection
Defined eugenics as: “the science which deals with all
influences that improve the inborn qualities of a race;
also with those that develop them to the utmost
His approach to eugenics was based upon social
Nazi Germany
Practiced negative and positive eugenics
 Forced sterilization, euthanasia
 Awarded Aryan women for having many children with
Aryan men
 Some argued that the Holocaust was "a vast dysgenic
program to rid Europe of highly intelligent challengers to the
existing Christian domination by a numerically and politically
minuscule minority.”
~Seymour W. Itzkoff
United States
 Alexander
Graham Bell recommended
deaf individuals not be allowed to marry
 Thirty states adopted legislation to perform
forced sterilization on those deemed
“mentally unfit.”
Eugenics Video
In New York, incest between close relatives is a felony with a
maximum penalty of four years in prison. Is this law a form of
eugenics? What role, if any, should the state have in preventing
unions that would inevitably lead to “undesirable” offspring?
Some states require a blood test to check for venereal disease
before issuing a marriage license. How would you feel about
mandatory genetic testing for couples planning to marry?