Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)

Publication Date



Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, College of


History, Department of

BURS Faculty Advisor

Peter Kuryla

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


This paper addresses the topic of the intellectual and academic foundations of the eugenics movement in England and the United States. It addresses how this basis formed in the highest levels of the academy and then permeated the rest of society in turn. Through this lens, it explores the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century British and American spheres of scientific and pseudoscientific thought, and how many of these unsavory ideas began in the academy and percolated into the masses. This paper argues the work of prominent biologists, mathematicians, and genetic researchers of the time created and pushed the narrative of racial and mental supremacy and oppression, and they encouraged through their presentation of this research to the public the same beliefs. This argument is supported by the subjects’ primary research, legislation, and public reaction. Materials discussed include, original journal articles, research reports, proposed and passed state and federal laws, and public opinions collected through newspaper articles.

This paper expands upon works of the intellectual and medical history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and particularly, it attempts to fill in gaps left in the scholarship of the history of statistics and genetics and its intersection with the spread of eugenics. This work sheds light on a dark section of academic history and how the works of the academy can directly influence the thoughts of the public.