Thesis ID: CBB176129676

A Program of Race Betterment: The Emergence and Evolution of Eugenic Ideas in Michigan (2022)


Lynch, William T. (Advisor)
McEuen, Branden (Author)

Lynch, William T.
Wayne State University
Publication date: 2022
Language: English

Publication Date: 2022
Physical Details: 402

Contemporary concerns with technologies like CRISPR and the proliferation of state laws restricting abortion have led people to wonder if we are witnessing a return of eugenics. I analyze the development and evolution of eugenic ideas and policies throughout the 20th century, using the state of Michigan as a frame of reference. In examining the eugenic theories and policies psychiatrists and physicians endorsed, I demonstrate that eugenics was a key component of preventive public medicine in the first two decades of the 20th century. I show how they educated the public on eugenics based on both environmentalist and hereditarian ideas and stressed that the suppression of individual rights to reproductive autonomy were necessary to improve the general welfare of society, an argument that influenced American jurists to endorse sterilization as a justifiable police power measure. I then reveal how these core principles remained embedded in both medical genetics and population control. Although medical geneticists shunned research on the inheritance of social behaviors, they remained committed to applying preventive genetic medicine for genetic physical and mental diseases and counseling individuals to not have children based on their genes. Population planners feared the catastrophic consequences of overpopulation and suppressed poor women’s right to reproductive autonomy around the world to address what they believed were crucial issues of resource depletion, economic development, and political stability during the Cold War. I conclude by looking at how eugenic ideas continue to suppress the reproductive rights of individuals while Michigan leaders have failed to adequately address the state’s eugenic past. Although contemporary notions of individualism in relation to reproduction prevent a resurgence of eugenics like that in the first half of the 20th century, current attempts to restrict reproductive rights are a cause for concern, and addressing our eugenic past is crucial to ensuring these rights are not violated.

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Authors & Contributors
Baker, Graham
Carlson, Elof Axel
de Jong-Lambert, William
Durst, Dennis Lee
Evans, Suzanne Elizabeth
Fantini, Bernardino
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin Canadienne d'Histoire de la Medecine
Feministische Studien
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
University of Chicago Press
University of California, Berkeley
Cambridge University Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Science and politics
Biology and ethics; bioethics
Booth, William
Davenport, Charles Benedict
Galton, Francis
Lysenko, Trofim Denisovich
Penrose, Lionel
Skowron, Stanislaw
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
21st century
20th century, early
20th century, late
Great Britain
Soviet Union

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