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Eugenics is a movement, supposedly based on scientific evidence, that holds that people are naturally superior and inferior to each other based on their racial and genetic makeup. Its political dimension, which was widespread in the early twentieth century, used this basis to recommend selective breeding of superior people and policies of restricted immigration, sterilization, and segregation of those deemed inferior. Traces of this ideology remain in behavioral determinism. This entry looks at the history of the movement, especially in the United States.

Historical Background

The American eugenics movement can be traced to Great Britain and to the work of Sir Francis Galton, who coined the term eugenics in 1882 to mean “well born.” A member of the British upper classes, Galton thought that the social positions ...

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