- Literally, meaning normal genes, eugenics aims to improve the genetic constitution of the human species by selective breeding. The use of Albert Einstein's sperm to conceive a child (by artificial insemination) would represent an attempt at positive eugenics. The Nazis notoriously engaged in negative eugenics by genocide. The word "eugenics" was coined by Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911) to denote scientific endeavors to increase the proportion of persons with better than average genetic endowment through selective mating of marriage partners. The practice of eugenics was first legally mandated in the United States in the state of Indiana, resulting in the forcible sterilization, incarceration, and occasionally euthanasia of the mentally or physically handicapped, the mentally ill, and ethnic minorities (particularly people of mixed racial heritage), and the adopting out of their children to non-disabled, Caucasian parents. Similar programs spread widely in the early part of the twentieth century, and still exist in some parts of the world. It is important to note that no experiment in eugenics has ever been shown to result in measurable improvements in human health. In fact, in the best known attempt at positive eugenics, the Nazi “Lebensborn” program, there was a higher-than- normal level of birth defects among the resulting offspring.
* * *1. Practices and policies, as of mate selection or of sterilization, that tend to better the innate qualities of progeny and human stock. 2. Practices and genetic counseling directed to anticipating genetic disability and disease. SYN: orthogenics. [G. eugeneia, nobility of birth, fr. eu, well, + genesis, production]
* * *eu·gen·ics yu̇-'jen-iks n pl but sing in constr a science that deals with the improvement (as by control of human mating) of hereditary qualities of a race or breed
* * *n.the science that is concerned with the improvement of the human race by means of the principles of genetics. It is mainly concerned with the detection and, where possible, the elimination of genetic disease.
* * *eu·gen·ics (u-jenґiks) [eu- + -genic] the improvement of a population by selection of the individuals considered as its best specimens for breeding. Cf. dysgenics.
Medical dictionary. 2011.