Eugenics and the Science of Genetics

Nils Roll‐Hansen

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780195373141
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Eugenics and the Science of Genetics


This article deals with the history of eugenics, which started as a science-based movement to combat threatening degeneration. It was initiated by idealistic scientists and was inspired by a humanistic Enlightenment ideal of science as the servant of human welfare. The general goal was to improve the biological heredity of human populations. The article considers the main scientific input to the birth of eugenics and looks at the Darwinian theory of evolution. Furthermore, it deals with the distinction between positive and negative eugenics that is central to eugenic policy discussions. It further discusses the dispute between eugenics and genetics that raised the possibility that race crossings could produce genetically unbalanced and thus inferior hybrids. Finally, it concludes with some implications that make the best out of eugenics by establishing effective democratic political control of its practical applications.

Keywords: eugenics; science-based movement; Darwinian theory; genetics; race

Article.  8404 words. 

Subjects: History ; Social and Cultural History

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