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Eugenics were practiced as early as in the Classical Greek era. Spartans were known for throwing abnormal newborns into the Kaiada, a wild ravine. Plato in the Republic (459D) stated that rulers should permit the best men to mate with the best women for procreation, while in the Laws he compared animal breeding to that of humans, rulers playing the part of shepherds in the amelioration of their breeds. Inspired by Plato, Tomasso Campanella wrote of a eugenic utopia, the City of the Sun (1623). Actually, Francis Galton (1822–1911), a cousin of Charles Darwin and a man of many talents (explorer, anthropologist, statistician, student of heredity), was the modern founder of eugenics. This term derived from the Greek ‘eugenes,’ meaning ‘from good birth.’ Galton ﬁrst spoke of eugenics in 1883, one year after Darwin’s death, deﬁning it as the study of the elements, controlled by society, which may improve the physical or mental racial qualities of future generations.
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Galton started with the study of human intelligence. In two articles written in 1865 and expanded into a book, Hereditary Genius, in 1869, he investigated the hereditary origin of mental ability by accumulating data on important men and their relatives. Darwin was impressed by his half-cousin’s work and wrote: ‘We now know, through the admirable labours of Mr. Galton that genius … tends to be inherited.’ However, Darwin was ambivalent on eugenics. While being convinced from Galton’s writings on the inheritance of intelligence, he did not advocate a programme of genetic amelioration. He thought that one of the higher qualities of humans is ‘sympathy,’ namely sentimental closeness to other human beings, especially those suﬀering, and this was contrary to all attitudes of ‘social Darwinism,’ which aimed at the improvement of society by letting the laws of natural selection operate against the poor and the needy. Darwin never promoted or approved of such social policies. Eugenics and social Darwinism achieved their prominence after Darwin’s death.
Galton assembled data indicating that many human characteristics, physical as well as social (ranging from pauperism to mental illness), were inherited. In the International Health Exhibition of 1884 Galton established an Anthropometric Laboratory and assembled metrical data. He also remarked that, in England, individuals with lower intelligence seemed to have more oﬀspring than those with higher intelligence and thus in future generations intelligence (being inherited) was condemned to decline. Lower classes were formed by more fertile but less intelligent individuals. Adequate measures would become necessary to prevent the decline of society. Darwin noted that higher fertility combined in lower classes with higher mortality, so a population’s intelligence would not change, but he did remark on cases (as in ancient Greece and in Spain) where, according to him, such a reduction took place and explained the decline of these powerful nations.
We should distinguish two diﬀerent sorts of social Darwinism, the holistic and the individualistic. The individualistic considers the competition between individuals within a society or population, while the holistic the competition between races, states, and societies. The ﬁrst is linked to proposals for eugenic measures within society, the second to racism.
Two students of Galton continued his tradition of combining anthropology and eugenics, the biometricians Karl Pearson (1857–1936) and W. F. R. Weldon (1860–1906). Pearson became Professor at University College, London, and headed the Galton Eugenics Laboratory (which included the Eugenics Record Oﬃce) and the Biometrical Laboratory. Both Pearson and his friend Weldon were Darwinists and eugenicists but anti-Mendelians. In 1907 the Eugenics Education Society was founded, with seven branches in diﬀerent English towns plus one in Australia. Galton was convinced to accept the honorary presidency, while the son of Darwin, Major Leonard Darwin, became president (from 1911 to 1928). Many important scientists, professors (among them John Maynard Keynes, later famous as an economist), social radicals as well as conservative public ﬁgures, such as George Bernard Shaw, Havelock Ellis, H. G. Wells, Harold Laski, Winston Churchill were in favor of eugenics or became active members of the Society. In 1926 it was renamed The Eugenics Society. In 1912 the First International Congress of Eugenics was organized in London with the participation of Societies or representative committees from Sweden, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Italy, France, and other countries.
The history of the eugenic movement in England is connected strongly with that of the USA; they behaved as communicating vessels. The concern caused by the greater fertility of individuals with lower mental capacities was great, especially after observations were reported suggesting that the majority of recruits for the Boer War did not perform well in mental tests. The French psychologist, Alfred Binet, invented a test, which was perfected by his colleague Theodore Simon. The Binet–Simon test was used to estimate the ‘intelligence quotient’ (IQ) and investigate its inheritance. In 1913, with an overwhelming majority (only three votes were cast against it, among them that of the liberal Josiah Wedgwood), the British House of Commons approved the Mental Deﬁciency Bill, in which the diﬀerent categories of feebleminded were recognized. Measures of segregation were compulsory only for extreme cases, to avoid their procreation. Sterilization was not mentioned. English society was reluctant to impose extreme eugenic measures. England did not include minorities (as later was the case in Germany) or immigrants (as was the case in the USA). The concern was for the urban poor strata, the middle and upper classes found repulsive any extreme repressive measure. Leonard Darwin avoided including them in discussion. Catholics were opposed to eugenic action as were the Labour party, Liberals, and Conservatives (Churchill was afraid that eugenic measures could undermine population growth), while the eugenic group was not homogeneous. Pearson never joined the Society, which soon became dominated by Mendelians. Important scientists, such as the American geneticist T. H. Morgan and the English scholars J. B. vs. Haldane, Julian Huxley, and Lancelot Hogben, were opposed to extreme measures.
On the other hand, socialists and members of the Fabian society tended to be favorable to eugenic practices. In 1926, Pearson started the journal Annals of Eugenics. Two International Congresses of Eugenics were held in New York, the second in 1923 and the third in 1932, the latter attracting a very small audience. In 1933 Ronald Fisher (1810–1962), a mathematical geneticist and statistician, who demonstrated that Mendelian genetics was compatible with Darwinian selection, even essential to explain the evolutionary process, was appointed to the Galton Eugenic Professorship, succeeding Pearson. Fisher was a strong supporter of eugenics, and a major part of his epoch-making book, The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection was devoted to eugenics.
Lionel vs. Penrose, a polymath physician and human geneticist, who embarked on the study of the genetics of mental deﬁciency, succeeded Fisher in 1945 to the Galton Eugenics Professorship. Penrose soon realized that in a few cases of mental deﬁciency, the genetic etiology was clear and due to a simple gene. In many cases, however, there was an interaction between environmental inﬂuences and genetic predispositions. Penrose was critical of the work of the psychologist Cyril Burt on the inheritance of IQ. He disliked eugenics. Penrose might be considered as a turning point in the shift from eugenics to human genetics. Actually, in 1954 he changed the title of Annals of Eugenics to Annals of Human Genetics and dropped the word Eugenics from the name of his chair. This shift was strengthened by the postwar revelation of eugenic and racist German atrocities. In 1950, UNESCO issued a strong declaration on the concept of human races and against racism signed by well-known and respected evolutionists such as the Americans Herman Muller, and Theodosius Dobzhansky, and the Englishman, Julian Huxley.
The growth of knowledge about human genetics was impressive. Blood groups, enzyme studies, and the cytological etiology of several abnormal syndromes are many of the subjects that marked the ﬂourishing of this ﬁeld, ﬁrst in Britain, later in Europe and the USA. With the development, after World War II, of human population and statistical genetics, genetic counseling became feasible. The advent, in the 1970s/1980s, of molecular techniques made possible early detection of carriers of genes causing serious abnormalities and pathologies, and allowed early abortions. However, this part of the history, although following naturally from the ideas and preoccupations of eugenics, belongs to a diﬀerent subject.
The case of France is diﬀerent. In France, the belief in Lamarckian inheritance of acquired characters (while Darwinism was not widely accepted) inﬂuenced the development of eugenics. Two major themes played a decisive role, the depopulation of France, and the degeneration of its population. For the ﬁrst time, in 1854, deaths exceeded births and, although this was not repeated, in the following years the birth rate steadily declined. This combined with the disastrous outcome of the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, was of great concern to demographers, politicians and the common people. Unlike France, the population of Germany increased. The German general von Moltke was reported to have said that France was losing a battle every day because of its declining birth rate.
Depopulation did not permit the neo-Malthusian movement, active in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, to play an important role. The natalist movement, on the contrary, was very popular and inﬂuential (the demographer Jacques Bertillon was one of its founders and its most vocal representative). Natalists preached control of the family but emphasized guidance towards its growth. While neo-Malthusians tended to be socialists and libertarian, natalists tended to be Catholics and in 1920 succeeded in having a law passed banning the sales and advertisement of birth control devices. In 1939, a second law encouraged the creation of large families.
France diﬀered further from England in terms of the development of ‘solidarism,’ an ideology combining individual freedom with state intervention on behalf of social justice. Cooperation rather than competition was emphasized. This was an alternative to English or American social Darwinism. Important public ﬁgures participated in the movement, which was the expression of the oﬃcial philosophy of the French Third Republic. Leon Bourgeois, ex-prime minister, and member of the Senate, identiﬁed with the solidarity movement, and became honorary president of the French Eugenics Society. Another member of the solidarity movement, the biologist Edmont Perrier (1844–1921), became president of the French Consultative Committee to the First Eugenics Congress in London, and later the ﬁrst president of the French Eugenics Society.
A rather general consensus, popularized in the literature of that time, was that the French population was tending to degenerate. Emile Zola, in his novels about the Rougon-Macquart family, insisted on this trend of decline and decadence. The degeneration was attributed to several causes, of which alcoholism, tuberculosis, and venereal diseases were considered to be the most prominent. An environmental amelioration (in a Lamarckian spirit) could rescue, if not the patients, at least their progeny (since it was believed that all three conditions had a strong hereditary component).
An amateur anthropologist, Georges Vacher de Lapouge (1854–1936), ostracized from the French scientiﬁc institutional system, promoted racist and eugenic ideas, observing that a very small number of males of absolute perfection and worthy of perpetuating the race could inseminate all females! Lapouge was more appreciated in the USA and Germany than in his own country.
Adolphe Pinard (1844–1934), professor at the Medical faculty in Paris, and a well-known obstetrician, together with his student, demonstrated that pregnant women having proper shelter and food, and not being obliged to work during the last three months of pregnancy delivered newborns weighing on average 300 g more than those working during these last months. Pinard’s aim was to improve the next generation by improving physical conditions and the art of raising children, what he called ‘puericulture.’ Pinard ﬁrst distinguished an extrauterine puericulture (the raising of the newborn and the baby) and an intrauterine one (improving the conditions of the pregnant women). Later, in 1899, he extended his concept of puericulture, to apply before procreation. This reﬂected his concern for the hereditary component. Then in spirit, puericulture joined eugenics. Even so, the emphasis was on education, and supportive of premarital examination. Women and men should choose their mates for procreation; mothers should stay near their children. The teachings of Pinard had great inﬂuence in France at the beginning of the twentieth century, his theories were taught in schools, while his book was translated in Romania, Spain, Belgium, and Italy (Latin and Catholic countries).
The French delegation to the First Eugenics Congress in London in 1912 was the starting point for the founding of the French Eugenic Society in December of the same year. Perrrier was elected President; Pinard, Louis Landouzy (dean of the medical Faculty in Paris), and Frederic Houssay (1860–1920, professor at the Faculty of Science) Vice Presidents; Eugene Apert (1868–1940, pediatrician), Secretary, and Lucien March (1859–1933, demographer, head of the Statistique Generale), Treasurer. Another important member was Charles Richet (1850–1935), professor of physiology and Nobel laureate for his work on anaphylaxis, and science popularizer, who replaced Landouzy after his death. Richet believed that the inﬂuence of the environment was small and to improve the quality of the population he strongly supported negative eugenic measures. The natalist and politician Adolphe Landry, in the same year, stated the contrary position, that sterilization and marriage restrictions were repugnant to the need for liberty and French individualism. The number of founding members of the Society exceeded 100. The Society was very active before World War I, holding meetings every month and publishing a journal, ﬁrst by itself, and later as part of the bulletin of the Ecole d’Anthropologie in Paris. During the war, the Society stopped its activities, which were resumed in 1920. Heavy human losses during the war (about a million) aﬀected the thinking of many of its members; thus, after the war the emphasis switched to positive eugenics combined with a Lamarckian outlook. Social hygiene became the prime concern, and institutions dealing with public health were founded and strengthened. The Rockefeller Foundation ﬁnanced an antituberculosis programme in France. However, some eugenicists did not put aside the idea of a premarital examination and a proposal for such legislation was ﬁrst raised in 1920 by Georges Schreiber. In 1926 Pinard presented to the Chamber of Deputies a bill on premarital examination. This bill was amended repeatedly (Pinard’s version was very mild), resulting in a delaying as its vote. The last amendments and a new bill proposal in the Senate, in 1932, were not voted for. Opposition from the Catholics (especially Edouard Jordan) helped to achieve this demand. A Papal encyclical, issued in the last days of 1930 and dealing with Christian marriage (Casti Conubi), condemned eugenic practices. Thus, only under the Vichy regime was the premarital examination implemented, by a decree in December 1942, which was amended the following year. An inﬂuential personality in the 1930s was the physician and aristocrat Just Sicard de Pauzoles (1872–1968). He defended class-based eugenics (lower classes were multiplying faster, but their genetic quality was poor) and a method for estimating human genetic capital in monetary terms. He was one of the few eugenicists who survived World War II scientiﬁcally.
In the 1930s, the depression and the arrival of numerous immigrants, triggered the expression of racist attitudes. France had a long tradition in this matter. Both monogenists (believing in a single origin of all human ‘races’ such as Buﬀon and Gobineau) and polygenists (Voltaire, Le Bon, Taine) expressed racist opinions. Joseph Alfred de Gobineau (1816–82) is considered a prominent racist. Ernest Renant (1823–92) stated that ‘a very small quantity of noble blood infused into a population suﬃces to ennoble it.’ Gustave Le Bon (1841–1931) tended to identify the hierarchy of races with those of gender and class, believing that the lower social strata corresponded to primitive man. Lastly, Hippolyte Taine’s (1828–93) beliefs could be interpreted as a critique of the enlightment (man does not exist, but men) and as revealing racist attitudes. The Dreyfus aﬀair, at the beginning of the twentieth century, displayed the attitude of a signiﬁcant part of the French society towards those considered alien. In the 1930s the skull index started being replaced by the frequency of ABO blood groups. Immigrants should be accepted, according to some scientists, on the basis of the similarity of the frequency of blood groups in the population of their origin to that of French people.
During the Vichy period, German Nazism inﬂuenced France: von Verscheuer and Fischer spoke in Paris on the German racial legislation. Well-known racists were placed in key positions. However, the Eugenic Society was disbanded. An important ﬁgure during this period, Alexis Carrel (1873–1944), a physician with a successful career in the USA and Nobel laureate for his work in experimental life-support of organs, in his book, Man, the Unknown, supported euthanasia for the insane and those guilty of criminal acts. The Vichy regime agreed to create a foundation, proposed by Carrel and headed by him, dealing with eugenics. After the war, in November 1945, the French provisional government, by an ordinance, upheld the Vichy regime decree on premarital examination.
The corresponding term for eugenics in Germany was Rassenhygiene. Eugenic thought originated in this country partly from social Darwinism, and partly from a concern to increase the population size of the German nation and partly from a racist ideology related to the concept of the Aryan or Nordic race. Racism had a long tradition in Germany. It was imported from England by George II, king of England and elector of Hanover, who formed a cultural bridge between England and Germany. He founded the University of Gottingen early in the eighteenth century, where during the last third of it Professor Johann Friedrich Blumenbach taught racism. Eugenicists in Germany formed a heterogenous group, some accepting and others rejecting the racist ideology. Those opposing proposed the term Rassehygiene, the use of the singular for Rasse indicating the entire human population. At the end of the nineteenth century, Germany experienced social problems resulting from its fast industrialization. In this atmosphere of social change, of increased criminality, alcoholism, and prostitution, the German middle and upper classes favoured a new ‘Sozialpolitik’ in the form of race hygiene, thus solving social problems in an economical way. Physicians played a major role in this, and they were inspired by the Haeckelian version, the selectionist variety of social Darwinism. The inﬂuence of August Weismann caused the Lamarckian alternative (the welfare state) to decline. Two major founding ﬁgures must be mentioned at this point, Alfred Ploetz (1860–1940) and Wilhelm Schallmayer (1857–1919). Ploetz studied economics and medicine. He was an enthusiast of Germany’s Teutonic past and coined the term Rassenhygiene as a German synonym for eugenics. He was concerned with the improvement of the hereditary quality of the population as well as its increase to an optimal size. He believed in a germ plasm selection—that is, selection before birth—in order to improve the population genetically without resorting to inhumane practices. In 1904 he founded the journal Archi fur Rassenkunde und Gesellschaftsbiologie (a journal in which not only leading biologists published but also some racists), and in 1905 the society for Race Hygiene. Schallmayer, in opposition to Ploetz, rejected racist ideology. He was a physician inﬂuenced by the writings of Karl Marx, and a Darwinist. Being deceived by the possibility of curing mental diseases, he adopted a eugenic approach, supported marriage restrictions for the insane, the feebleminded, alcoholics and others, but opposing state legislation for them.
The Society for Race Hygiene was founded in 1905 by Ploetz, the psychiatrists Anastasius Nordenholz (his brother-in-law), Ernst Ruedin (1874–1952), and the ethologist Richard Thurnwald (1869–1954). It was dominated by physicians, and formed local groups in Berlin and in Munich. Among the practical measures it proposed, in 1910, were the establishment of a counterbalance to the state protection of the feebleminded and the weak, the isolation of them, and the imposition of marriage restrictions so that they would not procreate as well as the control of immigration from ‘inferior elements.’ The German people, it seems were not ready to accept mandatory sterilization. Some eugenicists recommended the creation of work colonies, which were probably precursors of the concentration (labor) camps.
In the face of deterioration of the international climate before World War I, in which France and Russia would be allies against Germany, special emphasis was given to birth polity and the rejection of neo-Malthusian proposals. After the war, the Weimar Republic (1918–33) succeeded the Wilhelmine era. During this period, the same preoccupations continued, namely race hygiene, population degeneration, and its size increase. After the death of Schallmayer and the retirement of Ploetz, Fritz Lenz (1887–1976) played a major role. A physician, inﬂuenced by Weismann, and a member of the Munich chapter, he became known as the co-author of a treatise on human genetics and eugenics. He was a racist and a sexist, believing that races had physical characteristics which could change under the inﬂuence of natural selection, but most importantly were their spiritual characters, which permitted race valuation. The Aryan race (especially its Nordic or German strand) reached the highest point in his scale. Jews were not considered to be very diﬀerent from the German Aryans, but this did not prevent him from later collaborating willingly with the Nazis. He considered himself a student of Ploetz. Weismann’s inﬂuence directed him to adopt non-Lamarckian practices for population improvement. He was conservative politically but also a strong supporter of meritocracy. Ruedin and other members of the Munich branch sympathized with Lenz’s views. In general, the Munich branch succeeded in dominating that of Berlin, which was more progressive politically.
Scientiﬁc journals and the creation of institutions (research centers, university positions) gave increased status to eugenics. Lenz became professor of race hygiene in Munich in 1923, and Ruedin director of a research institute for psychiatry in Munich in 1931. The Rockefeller Foundation ﬁnanced the creation of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics in Berlin in 1927 headed by Eugen Fischer (1874–1967). Fischer, a docent in anatomy at Freiburg, investigated in 1908 the bastards produced between Boer men and Hottentot women in South Africa and their progeny, and in 1913 published a book about them. He stated that such mixing of blood produced inferior individuals. Later he was considered as the expert on the products of racial mixing. The economic crisis and depression of 1929 put an end to the welfare state by which the Weimar Republic had tried to counter Bolshevism. As a means of alleviation of state charges, the implementation of eugenic measures was considered seriously: the creation of work colonies for the unﬁt was discussed again and a law on sterilization was drafted. Although there was general support for this law, the 1930 Papal encyclical prevented its enactment. It was implemented in the Nazi period (1933–45), when extreme racist practices were combined with eugenic ones. Despite the fact that racism was not always connected to eugenics, it is clear that compulsory sterilization and euthanasia were measures ﬁrst proposed by eugenicists, and these constituted the inspiration for mass killings. Actually Nazis, as they characteristically put it, considered these measures to be ‘applied biology.’ Eugenisists who did not support racist practices (such as Ostermann and Muckermann) were removed from their posts. The Society for Race Hygiene came under state control, Ruedin was appointed as its head and given the authority to have oﬃcials and heads of the branches. The membership of the Society was restricted to German Aryans, and excluded Jews. Eugen Fischer was appointed head of the Berlin Institute of Anthropology and in 1933 was named rector of the University of Berlin. Another important ﬁgure was Otmar von Verschuer (1896–1969), a human geneticist, who ﬁst occupied the position of head of the human genetics division under Fischer (Lenz occupying that of eugenics). Subsequently, he held a professorship at the University of Frankfurt and ﬁnally, in 1942, succeeded Fisher on the latter’s retirement. Lenz, who previously regarded Jews as being nearly equal to Germans, kept silent under the Nazis and changed the text of his treatise in a subsequent edition to accord with the partly line. Along with many others, he collaborated willingly with the regime. About one-third of the physicians became members of the Nazi party, and several took an active part in sterilization and ‘euthanasia’ projects. Although few scientists were involved directly in such projects (mainly, SS and party members were employed), all seemed to be aware of what was going on. In July 1933 a law permitting mandatory sterilization for the feebleminded was enacted, as well as for those suﬀering from mental illnesses and other ‘hereditary’ aﬄictions. A committee formed by Lenz, Ploetz and Ruedin was the highest expert authority and made the ﬁnal decision on every case. From 1934 to 1939 (when apparently this practice was discontinued) between 200,000 and 400,000 individuals, probably 350,000, were sterilized without their consent, or even their knowledge. At least 367 women and 70 men died from postsurgical complications after such operations. In 1937, 385 children from German mothers and coloured fathers from among French colonial troops who occupied the Rhineland, were sterilized. In 1938 euthanasia by starvation was practiced in the mental hospital in Helborn. Euthanasia was applied in order not to waste money and valuable work on those designated as ‘useless eaters.’ About 100,000 individuals were eliminated in this way.
In 1934, several university professors and lawyers helped to draft the Nuremberg laws for the protection of the racial purity of the German race. Marriages and extramarital aﬀairs of Germans with Jews were prohibited. Fischer, at the end of a meeting, thanked Hitler for giving geneticists the opportunity, through these laws, to make the results of their research useful to the general public! A law for euthanasia was drafted by Lenz, but apparently ‘euthanasia’ was practiced ‘secretely’ in labor camps for Jews, gypsies, some Slavs, and, of course, homosexuals, and socialists. The Holocaust was planned carefully by Hitler and Himmler. Some physicians experimented on those destined to die, or collected their organs and dispatched them to the Institute in Berlin, among them the well-known Dr Josef Mengele (1911–84), an assistant of von Verschuer at that time. It is estimated that at least 70,000 mental patients, 5–6 million Jews (mostly German, eastern and Balkan Jews) and an unknown number of gypsies, Slavs, and others were gassed. Thus it is not surprising that in Germany, after the war, population genetics was a taboo subject, and until the 1980s only one chair of evolution and population genetics existed (at the University of Tubingen).
4. Switzerland And The Scandinavian Countries
Along with some of the states of the USA, Switzerland was of the ﬁrst countries to pass a law for compulsory sterilization, in 1927. Even as late as the early 1950s, recidivist rapists were given a choice, either to be castrated and go free, or suﬀer life imprisonment. In the 1930s, inﬂuenced by the USA, and especially by Germany, Scandinavian countries passed sterilization laws. Denmark permitted voluntary sterilization in 1929 and extended it to coerce the feebleminded in 1934, Norway legalized sterilization in 1934, Sweden the same year, Finland in 1935, and Iceland in 1938. A Baltic state, Estonia, passed such a law in 1936. These laws should be seen as part of welfare state policies rather than connected with the racial cleansing of Nazi Germany. However, it seems that such laws continued to be implemented well after the end of World War II, and the sterilization was performed without permission or even the knowledge of those being subjected to it. Mental defectives and asocial subjects were treated in the same way. In Denmark between 1929 and 1945 some 3,800 persons were sterilized.
Eugenics was introduced from England in 1875. Geneticists and biologists played the major roles, joined by physicians. Two young biologists, Nikolai Konstantinovich Kol’tsov (1892–1940) and Yuri Alexandrovich Filipshenko (1882–1930) were instrumental. After the Revolution and the civil war (1917– 22) several opportunities were open to young scientists. Kol’tzov was named professor at the two universities in Moscow, while Filipshenko, a year after his thesis (1917), became professor at Petrograd University and the following year director of the Laboratory of Genetics and Experimental Biology.
Kol’tsov had created a privately funded Institute of Experimental biology in 1916. In a rhetorical declaration he stated that socialism was bound to earthly life and eugenics were an attempt to achieve perfect order in relations between people, thus (following Galton) he claimed it was similar to a religion, giving meaning to life. Using eugenics, he secured from N. Semashko, his friend and Commissar of Public Health, funds for his Institute. Semashko and others adapted German ‘social hygiene’ to a Soviet-style enterprise. In 1920 Kol’tsov founded the Russian Eugenics Society, which he controlled, since most of its members were his students and collaborators. He was therefore elected as president and served at the society’s bureau with two other members, the psychiatrist T. I. Yudin and the anthropologist V. V. Bunak. Bunak, his student the geneticist A. vs. Serebrovsky (1892–1948) and M. V. Volotskoi (1893–1944), were all Kol’tsov’s proteges. In 1922 the Society started The Russian Eugenics Journal. Finally, at the Brussels’ meeting in 1922, the Society became a member of the International Commission of Eugenics. Several eugenic societies were created in other cities in the Soviet Union and became aﬃliated with that in Moscow; one was created by Filipshenko in Petrograd, others in Odessa, Saratov, and Sverdlovsk. Filipshenko approached the Academy of Sciences and established a Bureau of Eugenics under its auspices, to which he appointed his students Diakonov, Lusis, Lepin, Zuitin, Dob(r)zhansky, Kerkis, and Medvedev. The Bureau issued a Bulletin (1921–25); it later became the Bureau of Genetics and Eugenics (1925–27).
Since both Filipshenko and Kol’tsov were adepts in Mendelian and later in Morgan’s genetics, eugenics in Russia had close links to classical genetics. In the mid 1920s Pavlov, a well-known Lamarckian, was convinced by Kol’tsov and his wife that his data could be better interpreted by Mendelian genetics. This was a major victory for genetics in Russia. The research agenda of eugenics was to establish genealogies of talented individuals; the investigation of the heredity of criminality, alcoholism, schizophrenia, and manic depression, as well as of several bodily abnormalities and malfunctions (goiter, hernia). It also included demographic and statistical inquiries in general population studies.
In an attempt to provide a local origin to eugenics, Russians attributed it to the neglected writer, Florinsky. Subsequently they tried to render it ‘socialist’ or ‘Bolshevik’ to diﬀerentiate it from ‘bourgeois’ or ‘capitalist’ eugenics. With this attempt, Russian geneticists tried to protect their ﬁeld from persecution and to secure state funds. To label eugenics as a scientiﬁc religion or an international movement did not help much; they should have presented material results in public health, or expectations of beneﬁcial results. Young scientists devoted to Marxism and having an inﬂuence on the party helped in this respect. One of them, M. V. Volotskoi, became secretary of the Moscow society, another was A. vs. Serebrovsky. In 1923 Volotskoi proposed a negative eugenic measure: sterilization of defective individuals. Vasectomy was used widely in the USA, as it was easily performed and was not a castration. In women, salpingectomy was a more complicated operation. This proposal met with heavy criticism, formulated by Filipshenko, and was ﬁnally rejected on moral grounds and because during those years the USSR witnessed an important population implosion due to the wars and famine. Deaths exceeded births. In one of the eugenic societies a proposal was approved also to eliminate abortions.
Supporters of Lamarckism were numerous in Russia, especially among those following the party line. Inheritance of acquired characters was thought to ﬁt with Marxism and permit the improvement of society through concrete social actions. The Viennese biologist and strong supporter of this kind of inheritance, Paul Kammerer, was considered a hero, his books were translated and circulated widely, and the Communist Academy invited him to head a laboratory. His suicide was presented as part of a capitalist plot. Volotskoi originally supported Lamarckism. A physician, Soloman G. Levit (1884– 1938) joined Volotskoi in this. Filipshenko, in the same year (1925), by himself and together with H. J. Muller criticized Lamarckism and demonstrated that it was scientiﬁcally unacceptable. He pointed out (as did Haldane in England) that if Lamarckism was right, proletarians were at a great disadvantage, bearing the unfavourable inﬂuences of generations of slavery. Serebrovsky tried to reconcile the negative attitude towards eugenics with this confrontation. He argued that, while genetics was a science, eugenics was a social enterprise inﬂuenced by the ideology of the class of its supporters; therefore each class created its own eugenics, but, whatever the case might be, bourgeois or socialist eugenics, it should be based on the objective science of genetics. Thus Serebrovsky distinguished ‘antropogenetika,’ human genetics (anthropos means ‘man’ in Greek), a scientiﬁc ﬁeld, from eugenics, which was not a science. In 1927 the American geneticist, H. J. Muller, student of Morgan and a communist, demonstrated that irradiation by Xrays was mutagenic. This implied that genetic traits could be changed by an environmental agent and be manipulated for eugenic purposes (at that time it was not known that most of the mutations are harmful). This helped the conversion of Levit to Mendelism under the inﬂuence of his fellow Marxist, Serebrovsky. Serebrovsky made a new proposal in 1928, to provide a Bolshevik form of eugenics, the use of genetically recommended sperm in artiﬁcial inseminations to produce a great number of children. He remarked that ‘one talented and viable producer could have up to 1,000 children’ and ‘that various women would be proud of the successes and achievements in this … production of new human beings.’ Serebrovsky had worked in a zootechnical station on a project for amelioration of poultry and was aware of the technique, devised by Ilia I. Ivanov (1870–1932), for the artiﬁcial insemination of sheep, cows, and eventually of poultry. Serebrovsky’s antropotechnika was obviously inspired from zootechnika. Vacher de Lapouge in France had proposed a similar measure in 1896, and later Muller, inspired by Serebrovsky, also proposed the eugenic use of artiﬁcial insemination. It was positive eugenics: the dissemination of valuable inherited traits. The proposal met with satirical comments.
The beginning of the Stalinist era (1929–32) with its great purges and the Bolshevization of the Academy of Sciences marked the end of the eugenics movement. In Leningrad, Filipshenko withdrew his interest in the movement from the mid-1920s and in 1930 he was relieved of his university duties and his department was disbanded. He died suddenly in the same year, from meningitis. In 1930, the Russian Eugenics Society was disbanded and its journal suspended. The Eugenics Section of the Kol’tsov Institute was abolished. Filipshenko’s successor, N. I. Vavilov, the well-known plant geneticist, and a student of Bateson, regrouped the geneticists that were left, together with plant specialists. Technocrats were suspected of having bourgeois inﬂuences; a new generation of Marxists, especially those having a proletarian background, replaced them. Kol’tsov, in anticipation of diﬃculties to come, made some changes: He turned to medical genetics and included Marxists on his staﬀ. His Institute had two important groups, one headed by Serebrovsky, another by vs. vs. Chetverikov. Serebrovsky left the Institute in 1927, and Chetverikov was arrested and sent to exile in 1929. In 1930, Kol’tsov was removed from his teaching duties; and his department was disbanded and replaced by a Genetics Department headed by Serebrovsky. In 1933, Kol’tsov re-established his genetics division by bringing in a new geneticist of proletarian origin, N. Dubinin. In 1928, Kol’tsov created a Society for the Study of Racial Pathology and the Geographical Distribution of Diseases and became its president. From the beginning of the 1930s, eugenics was no longer considered a legitimate ﬁeld, therefore former eugenic researchers moved to medical research.
Levit became director of the Biomedical Institute in 1930. He was working at this Institute from 1928 and had established an Oﬃce of Human Heredity and Constitution. In 1930–1, on Rockefeller Fellowships, Levit and Agol worked in Muller’s laboratory in Texas. On his return, Levit continued to work at the Institute, and in 1934, at a conference alongside Muller, Kol’tsov and others, an expansion of medical genetics, was called for. In 1935, the Institute was renamed the Maxim Gorky Research Institute of Medical Genetics, and A. R. Luria headed its psychology division. Muller, a convinced communist, visited Russia for the ﬁrst time in 1922, and returned in 1932. During his ﬁrst stay he advanced genetic studies, bringing with him Drosophila cultures, and visiting Kol’tsov Institute and Serebrovsky’s poultry station. Muller was interested in eugenics from 1910. In 1932 he accepted an oﬀer from Vavilov to head a laboratory in Leningrad. In 1935 he published his book Out of the Night: A Biologist’s View of the Future, where he expounded his eugenics views and the artiﬁcial fertilization programme. It seems that he arrived in the USSR in order to implement his eugenics programme. In 1936, he sent Stalin a copy of his book and a letter supporting his plan, arguing that eugenics would ensure the triumph of socialism. This letter had extremely negative consequences. A student of Muller’s was arrested. The speakers at a session of the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Vavilov, Serebrovsky and Muller defended genetics. Muller did not follow the advice he was given, to avoid mentioning human genetics. At this meeting Serebrov- sky was heavily attacked by Lysenkoists. It seems that Stalin had read the transcription of Muller’s talk and disliked it. Muller had to leave Russia for fear of being arrested too. After that, a Kol’tsov student, N. K. Beliaev, was arrested and shot. The translator of Muller’s book into Russian was also shot, while Levit lost his position as director of the Gorky Institute, was arrested in 1938 and executed. In 1938, Kol’tsov was removed from his position and died in 1940 from a heart attack. The next day, his wife committed suicide. In 1938 Lysenko was elected as a member of the Academy of Sciences (the charges against Kol’tsov were formulated to secure the election of Lysenko, Kol’tsov also being a candidate for the same position) and the Soviet government and party gave him full support from 1940 to 1965. In 1940, Vavilov was arrested, along with his close friends and colleagues, G. D. Karpeshenko and G. A. Levitsky. All died in prison during the war (1942–3). During this quarter century, genetics became an illegal topic, but it did survive in a few centers which Lysenko could not control. It reappeared after Lysenkoism was repudiated in 1965; but not the eugenics movement, which the Nazis atrocities had thoroughly disqualiﬁed.
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