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Harvard's Eugenics Era

Adam Cohen ’84, J.D. ’87, the author of the article is also the author of Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck. I heartily recommend his article and book to anyone interested in learning more about American eugenics, which provided moral, legal, and philanthropic models for Nazi eugenics.

While “eugenics” lost favor after the revelations of the Nuremberg Doctors Trial in 1947, “It did not, however, entirely fade away—at the University, or nationally” according to Cohen. He goes on to say, “Today, the American eugenics movement is often thought of as an episode of national folly—like 1920s dance marathons or Prohibition—with little harm done. In fact, the harm it caused was enormous.”

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How can we move from the horrors of the Eugenics movement to today’s notion of “clinical genetics.” This article discusses the supposed advances in the area of genetics with a careful eye on the past


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