In 1865, six years after the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species, Francis Galton wrote:
If talented men were mated with talented women, of the same mental and physical characters as themselves . . . we might produce a highly bred human race . . . If we divided the rising generation into two castes, A and B, of which A was selected for natural gifts, and B was the refuse, . . . we should then . . . hasten the marriages in caste A, and retard those in caste B . . . and would end by wholly eliminating B, and replacing it by A. . . . The law of natural selection would powerfully assist . . . by pressing heavily on the minority of weakly and incapable men.
Inspired by Darwin’s theory of evolution, Galton developed the idea of human breeding and called it “eugenics.” Darwin called Galton’s ideas “admirable.” I suppose it makes sense that they had such praise for each other and such a high opinion of proper heredity. They were, after all, cousins.
Francis Galton proposed eugenics “for the betterment of mankind,” which sounds like a good idea. By the beginning of the 20th century, when Darwin’s theory was safely embraced by the scientific establishment, eugenics was getting some really good press. Such major newspapers as the New York Times gave it constant and positive coverage. ...