Related Links

* The American Eugenics Movement:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

* Ancient world eugenics:
Allen Roper Report

* Chronological Aid:
Eugenics Timeline

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a strong sense of nationalism was sweeping Europe. Starting in the 1870s, Germany was facing the process of industrialization, population growth and urban expansion that were among the most rapid in Europe. The fast pace of social and Portrait Composites of 'superior' characteristics from the Cold Springs Labeconomic change resulted in great disparity between incomes, life expectancy and employment opportunities. Margins between prosperity, working conditions and lifestyles diverged greatly between regions, classes and occupations. By the 1860s there was an overpopulation crisis stemming from a 60 percent growth since 1815. Between 1864 and 1873, only a ten-year span, nearly one million imigrated, and Germany became a nation of migrants (Weindling 1989:11-13). Mortality rates rose, and diseases were linked with poverty and industrial working conditions. Germany became increasingly concerned about these migrants, who were associated with disease and mortality, as they infiltrated the country. Middle- and upper-class Germany harbored an emerging mentality that "inferior races" were interbreeding and "contaminating" the country.

Alongside this growing concern about racial integration developed an increased social interest in biological sciences, especially heredity. Scientists began to "measure" human diversity through such Cranium measurements determined hierarchal systemsmethods as the cephalic index. By dividing maximum head breadth by length and multiplying by 100, it was possible to categorize humans in a hierarchal system (Jurmain 2000:412). The racism existent in the social realm was paralleled in the scientific realm under the concept of biological determinism. Charles Darwin from the Cold Springs LabBiological determinism holds that behavioral and physical attributes are governed by biological or genetic factors. If cultural variations are inherited in the same manner as biological variations, it follows then that there are inherent behavioral and cognitive differences between groups, and some groups are by nature superior to others. Many esteemed scientists of the day subscribed to biological determinism to some extent, including Georges Cuvier, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Lyell, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin (Jurmain 2000:412-413). Its widespread support by respected professionals made it an acceptable societal mind frame.

Determinism was the legitimate offspring of Darwinian evolution and the social currents that surrounded the publication of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species in 1859. In his work, Darwin argued that members of a species exhibited numerous small variations, and evolution proceeded through the gradual selection of some and the elimination of others through a struggle for existence (Haller 1984:4). Although he cautiously neglected to mention human's relation to this theory, Darwinism reinforced the importance of health as an ideology of national integration. Evolutionary biology offered objective criteria for evaluating fitness, welfare and the struggle for survival in urban and commercial life.

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Audra Milligan @ 2001