Can We Learn From Eugenics?

  • Daniel Wikler


The word “eugenics” may be unfamiliar to most people today, but for a period of about sixty-five years, roughly 1880 to 1945, both that term and the theories of human “improvement” which it denotes were in wide currency. Francis Galton, a cousin of Darwin, invented the term and launched a movement to improve the human race, or at least to halt its perceived decline, through selective breeding. His ideas spread quickly, and by the 1920s eugenics movements existed all over the world. Eugenics, a movement for social betterment clothed in the mantle of modern science, claimed the allegiance of most genetic scientists and drew supporters from political right, left, and center. Unfortunately for that movement, and indeed for much of mankind, eugenics was embraced by Hitler and his Nazi followers, tarnishing its name forever. After the fall of the Third Reich, eugenic ideas quickly lost their cachet, becoming virtually taboo in the United States and Europe, where the term “eugenic” is now used primarily as an epithet.


Distributive Justice Clinical Genetic Genetic Intervention Prospective Parent German Nation 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Wikler
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WisconsinUSA

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