The Meaning of Eugenics: Historical and Present-Day Discussions of Eugenics and Scientific Racism

December 2, 2021 (All day) to December 3, 2021 (All day)

Eugenics and scientific racism are widely misunderstood despite their long histories. Studying and sequencing the human genome were supposed to help eliminate common misconceptions about the biological differences between humans. After all, we are 99.9% the same according to our DNA.

And yet, why do these misconceptions continue to persist, resulting in modern day discrimination and bias? We look to the history of science and medicine to help explain.

Since its inception, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has funded forward-thinking research on the historical study of eugenics and other misuses of genetics and genetic information. This includes the broader social, ethical, and legal implications (ELSI) of genomics through NHGRI’s ELSI Research Program.

NHGRI has invited distinguished historians of science and medicine to speak at a two-day symposium that examines the history of eugenics and scientific racism and their complex legacies in the modern health sciences. In addition, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Museum of Natural History will present their own efforts on these topics and offer free educational and scholarly materials.

NHGRI Historian Christopher Donohue, PhD., and Oxford Brookes University Professor Marius Turda, PhD, will lead the symposium.

  • Day one will provide historical overviews on the general history of eugenics and scientific racism, with relevance for public health, the history of human genetics, medical ethics, and persons with disabilities.
  • Day two will focus on discussions of more recent manifestations of eugenics and scientific racism while underscoring the persistence of scientific and structural racism today in the United States.

The symposium program is available here. Register here.

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Sponsored by the National Human Genome Research Institute

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