The term “eugenics” was first used in 1883 by Francis Galton, Darwin’s half cousin. In 1871, Darwin authored the racist book The Descent of man and Selection in Relation to Sex saying that “the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world.” This followed the principle of “survival of the fittest” coined by Herbert Spencer in 1864 after reading Darwin’s 1859 book, The Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection for the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life (four years after Arthur Gobineau’s An Essay on the Inequality of the Races). For humans, this principle expressed itself in Social Darwinism.
Thus, during the 1870s, Oxford lecturer John Ruskin would instill in his students, like Cecil Rhodes, the concept that they were “the best northern blood” and should rule the world. Rhodes scholarships were not only given to students from America and Commonwealth nations, but also to those from Germany beginning in the very early 1900s. Germans at this time were also being conditioned to see historical progression in terms of “blood and land,” a sort of Teutonic knighthood descended from the Aryans. In 1914, Madame Blavatsky’s Aryan doctrine had spread through Germany and Austria, and it was from her writings that a young Adolph Hitler learned the meaning of the Aryan swastika.
By this time, eugenics was a growing international movement with the first International Congress of Eugenics held in 1912 with Vice-Presidents Winston Churchill, Alexander Graham Bell, Skull & Bones member Gifford Pinchot, and former Harvard University president Charles Eliot.
In this same year, eugenics proponent Woodrow Wilson signed into law a brutal sterilization act, and the next year eugenics adherent Theodore Roosevelt wrote of the need to improve “racial qualities.” Calvin Coolidge wrote similarly in “Whose Country Is This?” (Good Housekeeping, February 1921), after Arthur Calhoun in Volume 3 of his widely used textbook A Social History of the American Family (1919) explained that “in the new social order, extreme emphasis is sure to be placed upon eugenic procreation.”
Men of wealth like Andrew Carnegie and the Rockefellers played an important part in funding the eugenics movement….It was during this time of the early 20th Century that Rockefeller introduced Margaret Sanger to the monied elite who would help her form the Birth Control League which would later become Planned Parenthood. The November 1921 issue of Sanger’s Birth Control Review carried the heading “Birth Control: To Create A Race of Thoroughbreds,” and Sanger would later advocate eugenically limiting “dysgenic stocks” such as blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Catholics, as well as “slum dwellers” such as Jewish immigrants.
Across the nation during the 1930s, state legislatures (eventually 38) enacted sterilization laws regarding the “feeble-minded.” Also during this time, Franklin Roosevelt became president, and in Christopher Thorne’s Allies of a Kind (1978) one finds:
“Subjects to do with breeding and race seem, indeed, to have held a certain fascination for the president…. Roosevelt felt it in order to talk, jokingly, of dealing with Puerto Rico’s excessive birth rate by employing, in his own words, ‘the methods which Hitler used effectively’ [to make them] sterile.”
In the April 1933 edition of Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Review, Dr. Ernst Rudin of Hitler’s Nazi Third Reich wrote “Eugenic Sterilization: An Urgent Need.”