Death of Eugenicist Harry Hamilton

Death of Eugenicist Harry Hamilton

Harry Hamilton Laughlin
Source: Wikipedia

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Harry Hamilton Laughlin dies in Missouri. As director of the Eugenics Record Office from its beginning in 1910 until it closes in 1939, Harry Hamilton Laughlin has been America's leading eugenicist during the first half of the 20th century.

Laughlin was also be one of the leading voices advocating for extensive eugenics laws, including forced sterilization. According to biographer Paul Lombardo, Harry Hamilton Laughlin was "among the most racist and anti-Semitic of early twentieth-century eugenicists."

Harry Laughlin gave expert testimony to the U.S. Congress on the subject of eugenics and he provided statistical evidence to the existence of "excessive insanity" among Eastern European immigrants. Laughlin created a model for compulsory sterilization laws and by 1924, 18 different states passed compulsory sterilization laws based on that model.

Virginia was one of those states and their first victim was Carrie Buck who challenged the right of states to sterilize citizens like her. Without ever meeting Buck, Harry Laughlin testified that her family was "the shiftless, ignorant, and worthless class of anti-social whites of the South."

The case Buck v Bell went all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld forced sterilization as constitutional. More than 60,000 American are sterilized over the years, many in states using Laughlin's model.

Nazi Germany also used Harry Laughlin's model when it wrote its Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring in 1933, leading to around 350,000 sterilizations during the Third Reich. This, however, caused people to start questioning the validity of eugenics and that led to Laughlin's funding drying up.

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