Early geneticists including Davenport were eager to apply Mendel’s principles to the inheritance of human traits, with the intention of improving the quality of the human population by selecting for desirable traits, just as animal breeders would do for their livestock. Thus, in 1910, Davenport founded the Eugenics Record Office (ERO), which was based at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island, New York. According to a circa 1927 publication released by the ERO, the goal of eugenics was “to improve the natural, physical, mental, and temperamental qualities of the human family.” Regrettably, this sentiment manifested itself in a widespread effort to prevent individuals who were considered to be “unfit” from having children. Eugenics researchers believed that by studying large human families in which a certain undesirable trait appeared, they could demonstrate a genetic pattern of inheritance for the trait, and such findings would justify policies aimed at removing the related genes from the population. Unfortunately, such policies often included involuntary sterilization or institutionalization.
Based on the genetic knowledge available in the early 1900s, this approach to changing the human gene pool seemed reasonable. After all, Mendel’s beautiful demonstration of dominant and recessive inheritance in plants allowed for the prediction of phenotype among theoffspring of parents with known genotypes. Moreover, animal breeders had been applying disassortative mating to successfully improve their livestock for centuries. Couldn’t these same principles be applied to improve the human population? Eugenics researchers thought so, and they therefore believed that by carefully controlling human matings, conditions such as mental retardation, psychiatric illnesses, and physical disabilities could be eradicated. Eugenics quickly became an issue of public health that was advocated not only by scientists, but also by physicians and lawmakers. All that was needed were data to verify these assumptions. Such data, however, would never emerge.
read more, **Disclaimer: this is a much more complete history, however, if you would like to put more info or adress a certain topic, feel free to submit suggestions or do your own post! :) I’m a science blog (well, I’m a human, but I have a science blog), I don’t always adress social issues and I don’t go into a lot of areas some other blogs (social justice, history, anthropology etc.) do, any omission is a limitation of my subject interests or out of my own ignorance!