Letter on the Eugenics movement
... the positive aspects of the eugenics laboratory
from Donald Morrison
From: "Donald Norris"
To: "John Averell"
Hi John. Don Morrison is a classmate (MHS '49), and is now retired faculty at the Wharton School, UPa., and living in that region. He sent me the attached note regarding one of your recent articles.
The following letter refers to an article in the May 2008 Melrose Mirror by John Averell (click here.)
From: "Donald, Morrison"
To: "Donald Norris"
Sent: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 3:16 PM
Subject: RE: June issue explodes with good stuff
Mr. Averell is quite correct that the eugenics movement had unintended and horribly misguided consequences. However, his family member's support of the Coldspring Harbor Laboratory had a positive outcome, for the institution has enjoyed an excellent reputation in the life sciences, and will probably continue to do so in spite of its previous director James Watson's disparaging remarks about African researchers.
The origins of the eugenics movement probably begin with Francis Galton's seminal work on inheritance in the 1880s and earlier, and with the University College, London, biometric school of Galton, Weldon, Karl Pearson, and others around the beginning of the 20th century. Out of this came the journals BIOMETRIKA (my favorite statistical journal for the period 1930 - 1990 or so) and ANNALS OF EUGENICS. The latter had some pathbreaking papers by R. A. Fisher, arguably the greatest innovator in statisical theory and methodology of the last century, as well as significant contributions to probability and statistics by other scholars.
After WW II and the German perversions of genetic science its title was changed to ANNALS OF HUMAN GENETICS.
So, Mr. Averell's family's support of the life sciences, had, on balance, some distinctly positive effects in which he can take pride.
Donald F. Morrison
July 3, 2008