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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Joanne D Woiak
HIST 498
Seattle Campus

Colloquium in History

Each seminar examines a different subject or problem. A quarterly list of the seminars and their instructors is available in the Department of History undergraduate advising office.

Class description

Eugenics in American Society. The American eugenics movement of the early-twentieth century proposed and implemented a variety of policies for "improving the biological quality of the human race," ranging from forced sterilization of those deemed genetically unfit to the promotion of "better babies" contests at state fairs. In this course we will utilize primary and secondary sources in order to address a series of questions about the history of eugenics and its current-day relevance. How was eugenics defined? What was the relationship between eugenics and the emerging science of genetics? What can we know about the level of public support or opposition to the eugenics movement? How did politics and economics shape eugenic thinking? How successful were the eugenicists in passing legislation, and who was affected by it (particularly in terms of race, class, gender, and disability)? How did knowledge of the Nazi atrocities affect eugenic practices and discourses in America? Was post-war work in human genet! ics and genetic counseling influenced by eugenic ideas? And is eugenics still with us today? How does the legacy of eugenics influence ongoing debates over the social and ethical issues raised for example by genome research and genetic testing?

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Grades will be assigned for class participation, an oral presentation, a number of short response papers, and a major research paper to be based largely on primary sources and addressing some aspect of the history of eugenics.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Moran Tompkins
Date: 10/16/2002