The Other Side of the Human Genome

Henri R. Manasse, Jr.


Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2005;62(10):1080-1086. 

In This Article

Eugenics in Europe

The relatively benign "positive eugenics" espoused by Galton in England took a more sinister turn within Europe after his death in 1911. Just as in the United States, ideologues in Europe adopted Galton's observations and began to discuss the possibility of using more drastic interventions to purify the Nordic (or Aryan) identity. The ERO's Charles Davenport and his American compatriots eagerly threw in their lot with likeminded thinkers in the western European and Scandinavian nations, convening international eugenics conferences to undertake a regional (and soon, they hoped, a global) survey of racial and social makeup from which to develop policy initiatives similar to those in place in America.[18] Germany earned particular admiration from U.S. eugenicists by virtue of its accomplishments in medical and genetic research before and immediately after World War I. Again, these findings were largely legitimate but also suffused with the racist inclinations held by many leading German scientists. American and German eugenicists compared notes and exchanged encouraging, laudatory correspondence from the early 1900s well into the Nazi (National Socialist) era of the mid-1930s.[19] The mutual admiration did not stop at the mere exchange of verbal niceties. Both before and after Adolf Hitler's ascent to power in 1933, the Rockefeller Foundation provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding to German research in the "social or biological composition of the German people."[20] Among the scientists engaged in this enterprise were Ernst Rudin (a psychiatrist, eugenicist, and eventual commentator on and proponent of the Nazis' 1934 compulsory sterilization law) and Otmar von Verschuer, a virulent anti-Semite since well before Hitler's time and a mentor to Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous butcher of Auschwitz.