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Francis Galton: and eugenics today.
  1. D J Galton,
  2. C J Galton
  1. Department of Metabolism and Genetics, St Bartholomew's Hospital, London.


    Eugenics can be defined as the use of science applied to the qualitative and quantitative improvement of the human genome. The subject was initiated by Francis Galton with considerable support from Charles Darwin in the latter half of the 19th century. Its scope has increased enormously since the recent revolution in molecular genetics. Genetic files can be easily obtained for individuals either antenatally or at birth; somatic gene therapy has been introduced for some rare inborn errors of metabolism; and gene manipulation of human germ-line cells will no doubt occur in the near future to generate organs for transplantation. The past history of eugenics has been appalling, with gross abuses in the USA between 1931 and 1945 when compulsory sterilization was practised; and in Germany between 1933 and 1945 when mass extermination and compulsory sterilization were performed. To prevent such abuses in the future statutory bodies, such as a genetics commission, should be established to provide guidance and rules of conduct for use of the new information and technologies as applied to the human genome.

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