Eugenics began as a science studied by Francis Galton and Charles Darwin, his relative, in 1883. The reason for the study was to find a way to make sure human beings in the future evolved into socially acceptable members of society. This meant both in physical form and intellect. The eugenics idea came from ancient times but became popular during Europe’s enlightenment period. It was a time when scientists began questioning who we are and where we come from. SinceDarwin’s theory of evolution explained how species evolved through natural selection, Galton theorized the same could also be done artificially in humans. It caused scientists and fellow enthusiasts to think about what society would look like if scientists could directly manage its members by either promoting yearned for characteristics or preventing unwanted ones from occurring.
In the first part of the 20th century, eugenics was seen as a tool to control a persons living environment so that they could live disease-free. Studies were done and the result provided information for better nutrition, new medical remedies and health education, to include prenatal care.
From the popular characteristics that were considered to be good, scientists began studying how genes could be identified and singled out in the later part of the 20th century. This study coupled with the evidence gathered of individuals who displayed high intellect and their results began to spread across scientific communities. Much was learned from them but the studies did not always yield positive results. Sometimes they drew wedges in social circles when it was deemed that bad behavior was due to having bad genes. Studies showed the bad genes as well as good were found in abundance in different areas of societies.
Ethical problems arose as well when arguments against the rights of women to bear children or use birth control as part of informed choices emerged in political discussions. One question that was raised was how would birth control contributed to the spread of genes good or bad if controls on sex were not social enforced? This gave radicals further fuel to debate with and placed a moral monkey wrench into the picture.
Forced sterilization emerged as a solution to the spread of bad genes that burdened society and deemed certain people unfit to reproduce. People started advocating new laws to prevent immigrating families of people with bad genes from entering the US. The Immigration Act of 1924 was passed in Congress to set rules and guidelines on immigration. Eugenics influenced this passing. The idea of forced sterilization and control of reproduction however met with resistance among those who opposed it in 1930 to include the Catholic Church. The science was reduced to that of genetic study under a microscope rather than delivered measures forced upon individuals. It remains as a foundation of genetic study that is done today.