Center for Science, History, Policy, and Ethics

Sir Francis Galton first defined the term eugenics in 1883, eventually describing it as the "the science which deals with all influences that improve the inborn qualities of a race" as well as those that "develop them to the utmost advantage." In the early twentieth century, eugenics movements thrived across the globe, in dozens of countries as diverse as Argentina, Japan, India, and Germany. Although the scope of eugenics differed from place to place, its proponents shared the belief that directing reproduction and biological selection could better, even perfect, society.

California was home to an extensive eugenics movement in the twentieth century. Convinced that ideas of better breeding and genetic selection were central to settling the Pacific West, many European American migrants to California supported practices such as involuntary sterilization, immigration restriction, and racially-biased IQ testing. Indeed, 1/3 or 20,000 of the 60,000 sterilizations performed in the United States from 1900 to 1980 occurred in California under the aegis of the state government.

  Center for Science, History, Policy, and Ethics California State University Sacramento