Truby King, Infant Welfare and the Boundaries of Eugenics

  • Diane B. PaulEmail author


Sir Frederic Truby King (1858–1938) looms large in the history of New Zealand. Founder of the ‘Plunket Society’ devoted to infant and maternal welfare, prolific author of books and manuals, medical superintendent of the Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, and Director of Child Welfare, King was the first private citizen to be given a state funeral. Today, he figures prominently in the literature on eugenics in New Zealand, where he is often portrayed as a passionate eugenist and advocate of selective breeding. In this chapter, Diane Paul aims to make intelligible both King’s own views and their contemporary interpretation in the popular and scholarly literature, and also to use the King story to reflect on the porous, constantly shifting, and contested boundaries of eugenics.


Truby King Infant Welfare Plunket Society Seacliff Zealanders 
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I am grateful to the University of Otago for a William Evans Fellowship, which facilitated archival and other research on King, and to Nigel Costley (Nelson Science Society) and James Beattie (University of Waikato) for valuable comments, and to Donald Kerr (University of Otago) both for his comments and gracious assistance in obtaining illustrations.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Massachusetts Boston (Emerita)BostonUSA

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