Grim Photos Show The US & British Eugenics Movement During Its Heyday


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

Alfredo (he/him) has a PhD in Astrophysics on galaxy evolution and a Master's in Quantum Fields and Fundamental Forces.

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent


Adverts by the Eugenic Society. Public Library/News Dog Media

When one thinks about eugenics, they usually associate the term with the horrible crimes of Nazi Germany and their unfounded and terrible ideas of race and purity. But the practice and advocacy of eugenics have a long history. Decades before the rise of Hitler, The Eugenics Society was advocating the forced sterilization of undesirable people in the US, Britain and Western Europe.

Families participate in the "fittest family" competition by the Eugenics Society. Public Library/News Dog Media


Family with ricket used to illustrate how it was genetically transmitted in a Eugenics society pamphlet Public Library/News Dog Media


In 1907, India passed a sterilization law barring certain categories of disabled people from having children (a similar law was passed in Germany in 1933). By 1938, if you had been classified as insane, idiotic, imbecile, feebleminded or epileptic you could be forcibly sterilized in 38 states in the USA. A mental institution in Lincoln, Illinois euthanized its patients by giving them milk from a herd suffering from tuberculosis. Similar laws were passed during the 20s and 30s  in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. 

Great Britain never had such laws, but the Eugenic Society was very active since its inception in 1907 and tried passing several pieces of legislation. In 1908 Sir James Crichton-Brown recommended the compulsory sterilization of those with learning disabilities and mental illness to the Royal Commision on the Care and Control of the Feeble-Minded.This was supported by Winston Churchill. In 1931, Labour MP Archibald Church put forward a bill very much in line with the eugenics legislation being approved around the world. 


Eugenic Society meeting. Public Library/News Dog Media

Another use of a family with ricket used to illustrate how it was genetically transmitted. Public Library/News Dog Media
Images from eugenicists were published in the West London Medical Journal at the time. Public Library /  News Dog Media


These laws were repealed after the second world war but these images stand as a reminder of the barbaric treatment of the many people experienced by our "civilized" society.

Shocking photos taken of "types of Indian dwarfism". Public Library /  News Dog Media
A photograph taken of a eunuch, published in Paris. Public Library /  News Dog Media
Eugenicists believed "criminality" could be seen in the shape of a person's skull. Public Library /  News Dog Media