|Volume 50 Number 15, April 25, 2020||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
The ideas of eugenics were first systematised by Sir Francis Galton in the latter half of the 19th Century. In his 1883 Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development, he described the word:
"We greatly want a brief word to express the science of improving stock, which is by no means confined to questions of judicious mating, but which, especially in the case of man, takes cognisance of all influences that tend in however remote a degree to give to the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable than they otherwise would have had. The word eugenics would sufficiently express the idea; it is at least a neater word and a more generalised one than viriculture which I once ventured to use."
Though this definition is manifestly racist in form, the focus of early eugenics was that "genius" and "talent" were hereditary traits in humans which were particularly correlated with social class. It was part of that ideology regarding the existence of classes in society as "natural". The idea was to encourage breeding amongst those of "good stock". This went hand in hand with a desire for racial purity. In the words of Galton in introduction to his 1863 book Hereditary Genius: "it would be quite practicable to produce a highly-gifted race of men by judicious marriages during several consecutive generations."
Eugenics is closely connected to the same anti-people concept of weighing up human beings against economic worth. Part of eugenics is to eliminate the supposed economic burden due to the existence of "dysgenic" individuals, i.e. those of "inferior stock". This logic lead to the compulsory euthanasia program of the Nazis, with its associated propaganda and slogans such as: "This person suffering from hereditary defects costs the community 60,000 Reichsmark during his lifetime. Fellow Germans, that is your money, too."