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Francis Galton, an early advocate of eugenics

Eugenics is a social philosophy which advocates the improvement of human hereditary traits through various forms of intervention.


  • One of the effects of civilisation is to diminish the rigour of the application of the law of natural selection. It preserves weakly lives that would have perished in barbarous lands.
    • Francis Galton, 1865. Hereditary talent and character. MacMillan's Magazine, 12, 157-166; 318-327.
  • There is a steady check in an old civilisation upon the fertility of the abler classes: the improvident and unambitious are those who chiefly keep up the breed. So the race gradually deteriorates, becoming in each successive generation less fit for a high civilisation.
    • Francis Galton, 1869 (p.414). Hereditary Genius. London: MacMillan.
  • We civilised men do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick .... There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands... Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man itself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
    • Charles Darwin, 1871 (p. 501). The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. London: MacMillan.
  • To aid the bad in multiplying is, in effect, the same as maliciously providing for our descendants a multitude of enemies. Institutions which 'foster good-for-nothings' commit an unquestionable injury because they put a stop to that natural process of elimination by which society continually purifies itself.
  • In one of my last conversations with Darwin he expressed himself very gloomily on the future of humanity , on the ground that in our modern civilisation natural selection had no play and the fittest did not survive... It is notorious that our population is more largely renewed in each generation from the lower than from the middle and upper classes.
  • While modern social conditions are removing the crude physical checks which the unrestrained struggle for existence places on the over-fertility of the unfit, they may at the same time be leading to a lessened relative fertility in those physically and mentally fitter stocks, from which the bulk of our leaders have hitherto been drawn.
    • Karl Pearson, 1901. National Life from the Standpoint of Science. London, Methuen.
  • The only remedy, if one be possible at all, is to alter the relative fertility of the good and the bad stocks in the community.
    • Karl Pearson, 1903. On the inheritance of the mental and moral characters in man. Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 33, 179-237.
  • Eugenics is dead.
    • Daniel Kevles, 1985. In the Name of Eugenics. New York: A. A. Knopf.

See also

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