By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Eugenics & The Story of Carrie BuckPsychology has a fascinating and rich history, filled with amazing advances. But it wasn’t all progress. Psychology has a painful past — with many victims.

One of the most devastating times in psychology was a movement called eugenics, a name coined by Sir Francis Galton in 1883. The goal of eugenics was to improve the genetic composition of the population: to encourage healthy, smart individuals to reproduce (called positive eugenics) and to discourage the poor, who were considered unintelligent and unfit, from reproducing (negative eugenics).

One of the main methods to discourage reproduction was through sterilization. While it seems ludicrous now, many people, both abroad and in the U.S., agreed with the principles of eugenics.

In fact, state governments soon started establishing sterilization laws. In 1907, Indiana was the first state to legalize sterilization.

According to scientist Stephen Jay Gould in Natural History:

“Sterilization could be imposed upon those judged insane, idiotic, imbecilic, or moronic, and upon convicted rapists or criminals when recommended by a board of experts.”

While sterilization laws were in place in many states, they weren’t really used. According to Harry H. Laughlin, director of the Eugenics Record Office and a major player in the eugenics movement, that was because the laws were either too confusing or too poorly written to be constitutional.Link

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