Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Eugenics is a term coined by the nineteenth-century British biologist Francis Galton to refer to a program of breeding better people. In an era, nation, and class that tended to see civilization as progress and itself as the most civilized, Galton saw the attributes of civilization as the expression of innate endowments, rather than as the product of historical contingencies and opportunities. Thus, eugenics afforded a biological—a scientific—means of advancing society. There was an immediacy to eugenics as well, however. Insofar as the lower classes were having more children than the wealthier classes, and the lower classes were assumed to be genetically inferior, it followed that the present demographic trends would retard civilization. To this “scientific” problem, a “scientific” solution had to be sought. In the United States, before income taxes and a large federal budget, when equal rights and opportunities were not taken for granted (women could not vote ...