The Eugenic Zombie in a Graveyard of Textbooks

During the first decades of the twentieth century, WASP elites in the U.S. got themselves into quite a tizzy about sex and race. Metaphysical threats, like the death of “virgin forests,” the “darkening tide” of immigration and the dreaded “white plague” of Tuberculosis, combined with economic threats, like the new permanent income tax, to create a culture open to and fully capable of funding the promotion of public policies and “scientific” solutions that promised to freeze the status quo. Chief among these solutions was the “science” of eugenics.

Eugenics, with some forced sterilization laws here, a few anti-miscegenation laws there, was pitched as a kind of a cure-all for society’s ills, a permanent solution to the problems of alcoholism, pauperism, venereal disease, sexual licentiousness and the general problem of numbers.

March 30, 1913 announcement of the establishment of a Board of Scientific Directors for the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor. ©The New York Times.

March 30, 1913 announcement of the establishment of a Board of Scientific Directors for the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor. ©The New York Times.

Several well-publicized studies of female college graduates indicated that fertility among upper class whites had fallen below replacement levels. Democracy can be a drag when one is in the minority.

In the teens, eugenics proved a smart path to patronage. According to Daniel J. Kevles, author of In the In the Name of Eugenics, “the science of human biological improvement provided an avenue to public standing and usefulness.” Charles Davenport’s success in securing a major donation from Mary Harriman, widow of railroad baron E. H. Harriman, to fund the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor demonstrated to other researchers and academics how they too might cash in.

Given the hot enthusiasm for the topic, particularly in the years leading up to World War I, it is no real surprise that biology textbook authors got in on the action. But the fact that they stayed on board for the next six decades, is, well, kind of scary!

Continue reading

Eugenics in 20th Century College Biology Textbooks

[Updated 2011.07.30 to include and weight all editions of Woodruff]

I’d been trying for a couple of months to kick out an article on a curious college biology textbook, The World of Life by Wolfgang F. Pauli (who should not be confused with the more famous physicist, Wolfgang E. Pauli). Published in 1949, The World of Life had long fascinated me, particularly its final unapologetic climax chapter, “Human Genetics and Eugenics” (click image to view). The whole thing just seemed so remarkably wrong; a tortured post-World War II effort to “save” eugenics, as if it were an adorable baby being thrown out with that nasty Nazi bathwater.

But I worried that The World of Life was an exception, a weird one-off a decade or more out of step, not really worth deep examination. Before I could write confidently, I realized I had to know how Pauli’s text fit into the history of college biology education in the twentieth century.

So it was off to AbeBooks (again!), credit card in hand. Before you could say “security code,” I was anticipating the arrival of nearly a dozen book-filled “bubble-lopes.” Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long to find out I was on to something.

The very first of my new acquisitions, Biology: And Its Relation to Mankind (1949) by A. W. Winchester, told me Pauli’s text was no exception. The subsequent arrival of Biology: The Human Approach (1950 – later titled Biology) by Harvard professor Claude A. Villee, a text which identified feeble-mindedness as “the biggest single eugenic problem” (461), suggested a trend: Contrary to received wisdom, biologists did not drop eugenics like a hot stone after World War II. Instead, as I wrote in a previous article, a few college textbook authors “doubled down and began to defend the ideology with more aggressive rhetoric and moments of near-pornographic spectacle.”

Counter-intuitive. Interesting. Compulsion-triggering.

Now, in addition to 82 American high school biology textbooks, I own or have sourced 38 college-level biology textbooks. Though the college collection is considerably smaller and perhaps not quite as complete and coherent as the high school collection, I am fairly confident it is representative.

THE RELATIVE PRIORITY OF THE TOPIC OF EUGENICS IN AMERICAN COLLEGE-LEVEL AND HIGH SCHOOL BIOLOGY TEXTBOOKS 1904 – 1964

The orange trendline traces the relative priority of the topic of eugenics in American college-level biology textbooks published between 1904 and 1964 (based on the table below).* The yellow trendline traces the relative priority of the topic in high school textbooks published during the same era (see related article). Consistently throughout the twentieth century, college texts were as eugenic as their high school counterparts, with a notable increase in the boldness of their presentation of the topic, both in relative and absolute terms, in the years immediately following World War II.

I hope to add a couple context bullet points and write a few longer articles referencing this collection soon (perhaps on topics other than eugenics, which I admit has sort of taken over Textbook History lately). But I thought I’d get this draft database out there, including my somewhat subjective “Eugenics 0-5” rating. I’ve included links to public domain texts, related articles and available biographical information on authors.

See Database: Eugenics in College Biology Textbooks

Also see Eugenics in 20th Century High School Biology Textbooks.

* The chart above reflects a eugenics score of “1” for the popular Foundations of Biology by Lorande Loss Woodruff (see page 297), published in 7 editions through 1946 (though only the 1922 and 1937 editions have been directly reviewed). A score of “2” would not substantially alter the shape of the college trendline, but would amplify it through 1946, thereby decreasing the relative drama of the post-war bump.

Database: Eugenics in College Biology Textbooks

TitleDateAuthor(s)PublisherEugenics 0-5
An Introduction to General Biology1904Sedgwick, William T. (M) MIT; Wilson, Edmund B. (M) ColumbiaHenry Holt and Company, New York0 No mention
Biology1912Conn, Herbert William (M) WeslyanSilver, Burdett, Boston0 No mention
The Principles of Biology1913Hamaker, J. I. (M) Randolph-Macon Woman's CollegeP. Blakiston's Son and Company, Philadelphia 0 No mention
Biology1914Calkins, Gary N. (M) ColumbiaHenry Holt and Company, New York0 No mention
Elementary Priciples of General Biology1914Abbott, James Francis (M) Washington UniversityMacmillan, New York3 First college text to describe eugenics. Disclaimed only slightly: "So far as statistics may be depended upon, it would seem that the proportion of defectives, comprising all sorts of persons who, on account of physical, moral, or mental abnormalities, are a burden to society, is steadily and rapidly increasing" (241).
Biology1917Calkins, Gary N. (M) ColumbiaHenry Holt and Company, New York0 No mention
A Text-Book of General Biology1918Smallwood, William Martin (M) SyracuseLea & Febiger, Philadelphia3 Includes Kallikaks and eugenics. Text closes with discussion of behavior.
General and Professional Biology1922Menge, Edward J. (M) MarquetteThe Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee
General Biology1922Burlingame, Leonas Lancelot (M); Heath, Harold (M); Martin, Ernest Gale (M); Peirce, George James (M) ColumbiaHenry Holt and Company, New York5 - Propagandistic and extremely influential. Eugenics chapter written by Lewis M. Terman. Text closes with "It is clear, however, that the sooner serious general attention is paid to racial betterment through eugenics the better it will be for mankind, both in the near and long distant future" (554).
Foundations of Biology1922Woodruff, Lorande Loss (M) Yale BioMacmillan, New York1 - Cautionary. '37 edition includes important anti-eugenic statement. See pp. 407-09.
Life and Evolution1926Holmes, Samual Jackson (M) University of CaliforniaHarcourt, New York5 - Propogandistic. See pp 411-427. Book's final and climatic chapter. Note particularly citations on 427.
College Biology1930Barrows, Henry R. d. 1935 (M) New York UniversityRichard R. Smith, New York4 Propogandistic. Chapter XVIII - Applied Genetics - ends with subsection on Eugenics. Somewhat edited in 1936.
Fundamentals of Biology1932Haupt, Arthur W (M) UCLA4 Propogandistic.
General Biology1933White, E. Grace (F) Wilson College BioThe C. V. Mosby Company, St. Louis5 Propogandistic. See pp 270-283
Man and the Nature of His Biological World1934Jean, Frank Covert (M); Harrah, Ezra Clarence (M); Herman, Fred Louis (M); Colorado State College of Education and Powers, Samual Ralph (M) ColumbiaGinn, Boston5. Entire narrative leads to the eugenic climax. Influenced by Burlingame (1922). Closes with "Hereditary differences should always have weight in deciding one's vocation" (426). Authors would update text in '44 and '52. Very conscious of latest stats and confirming opinion, including reference to Villee '50 in '52 Jean.
An Introduction to Biology1935Rice, Edward Loranus (M) Ohio Wesleyan University Bio Debated Bryan in '25, advised Darrow at ScopesGinn, BostonCautionary. 1. "Progress must be gradual and conservative" (564)
General Biology1936Mavor, James Watt (M) Union CollegeMacmillan, New York2 Somewhat cautionary. See pp 599-601
Elements of General Biology1936Barrows, Henry R. d. 1935 (M) New York UniversityFarrar & Rinehart, New York3 Supportive. 317-18. But claims of "an encouraging amount of success" and the likelihood to "enact and support some such laws and regulations" (262-63) edited from original (1930).
Human Biology1940Baitsell, George Alfred (M) 1885-1971 Yale BioMcGraw-Hill, New York3 Promotional. (Quotes Holmes: "three generations ..." 426)
Man and the Living World1940Stanford, E. E (M) College of the Pacific, Stocton Junior CollegeMacmillan, New York4 Propogandistic. See all of Chapt. XXX - "Genetics and Human Heredity." See pp. 698-730.
Biology1940Parshley, Howard M (M) Smith College BioJohn Wiley & Sons, New York2 Cautionary. "Ideal rather than practical possibility." Cites SJ Holmes and Huntington's Tomorrow's Children
Man and the Biological World1942Rogers, J. Speed; Hubbell, Theodore H. (M); Byers, Francis C. University of FloridaMcGraw-Hill, New York4 Propogandistic and highly deterministic. Very concerned with rates of reproduction by class (chart p. 282). Text focused on evolution, race and "the individual's capacity for mental, physical, and moral development" (283).
General Biology for College1942Moment, Gairdner B. (M) Goucher College Bio (PDF)D. Appleton-Century, New York0 Anti-eugenic. Great "Gould-like" quote: "In one sense, heredity is predominant. We develop into humans, not starfish or lemurs, because of our heredity. In another, equally valid, sense, environment is predominant. Every living thing can exist only in a suitable environment and is continually reacting to it. Both together make us what we are" (413).
Biology The Science of Life1943MacDougall, Mary Stuart (F) Agnes Scott College; Hegner, Robert (M) Johns HopkinsMcGraw-Hill, New York1 Discusses inheritance with charts (see note), and mentions eugenics in passing (846), but focuses on disease prevention and environmental improvements.
Man and His Biological World1944Jean, Frank Covert (M); Harrah, Ezra Clarence (M); Herman, Fred Louis (M); Colorado State College and Powers, Samual Ralph (M) ColumbiaGinn, Boston5 Repeats and revises '34 text, adds additional supporting references. Entire narrative leads to the eugenic climax. Closes with "Hereditary differences should always have weight in deciding one's vocation" (547).
Biology and its Relation to Mankind1949Winchester, A. M (M) John B. Stetson UniversityD. Van Norstrand Company, New York4 Harshly (and casually) eugenic.
Life Science1949de Laubenfels, M. W (M) 1894-1960 University of Hawaii (later Orgegon State College)Prentice-Hall4 Deterministic and racist. Devotes one of 28 chapters (25) to the topic, titled - Eugenics: The Special Problem of Breeding. "The destiny of a person, animal, or plant exists inside the zygote, chiefly in the chromosomes" (329). Egypt's rise can be traced to "consanguineous marriage by preference" (336). Compares differential births to cancer (338).
The World of Life1949Pauli, Wolfgang F (M) Bradford Junior CollegeHoughton Mifflin, Boston5 Remarkably eugenic. Attempts to introduce topic under cover of "reform" (and fails). Topic serves as climax for the narrative. "it has been argued that any program of negative eugenics, by segregation and sterilization, would be futile, and hence that we had better do nothing about the mater at all. This like the lazy man's argument that since he can never eradicate the last weed out of his garden - and even if he did, new ones would appear anyway - he might as well do no weeding at all!" (580).
College Zoology1949Hunter, George W. III, Hunter, F. R.W. B. Saunders, Philadelphia3 Strong, but significantly soft-pedaled relative to George W. Hunter's high school texts.
General Biology for College1950Moment, Gairdner B. (M) Goucher College Bio (PDF)D. Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York2 A hard to judge work. Gairdner in this significant update to his almost anti-eugenic 1942 text of the same title introduces key principles of the modern synthesis. The author's ecological bent prepared him for the transition to populational thinking. However, in an apparent pitch for relevancy, Gairdner placed increased stress "on the human import of biological facts and principles" (vi), which forced a long discussion of human inheritance and heredity, and brought the author's opinions on genetic determinism relative to topics such as I.Q. to the fore (see 559). Eugenics discounted and supported simultaneously (560).
Biology1950Villee, Claude A. (M) BioW. B. Saunders, Philadelphia4 Though not the text's narrative focus, eugenics serves as the climax to a unit on genetics and precedes the text's extensive section on evolution. Author references R. R. Gates, S. J. Holmes, H. J. Muller among others. Extremely popular textbook revised through 8 editions. Eugenics strongly promoted through 4th edition (at least), 1962. (Quotes Holmes: "three generations ..." 461). Author pridefully cites California's "success" with a program of eugenic sterilization (and would continue to do so through '62).
Man and His Biological World1952Jean, Frank Covert (M); Harrah, Ezra Clarence (M); Herman, Fred Louis (M); Colorado State College and Powers, Samual Ralph (M) ColumbiaGinn, Boston5 Entire narrative leads to the eugenic climax. Minor text and reference edits and additions relative to Jean '44.
Biology1956Brown, Relis B. (M) Lawrence CollegeD. C. Heath, Boston1 Quite cautionary. Eugenics indexed and defined, its aims "laudable," but dismissed as impractical, with improvement to the environment suggested as the quickest path to human improvement. "Who is to say whether the race would be better or worse off with more people having musical talent, artistic ability, or mechanical aptitude?" (239)
Biology and its Relation to Mankind1957Winchester, A. M (M) Colorado State CollegeD. Van Norstrand Company, New York1 Though deterministic thrust remains, the word eugenics, a central feature in '49, eliminated in '57. Notable retreat from visual spectacle (though author would return somewhat to visual spectacle in '64.
Biology1957Villee, Claude A. (M) BioW. B. Saunders, Philadelphia4 Author cites Frederick Osborn's Preface to Eugenics, increases word count in eugenics section by 25%. Remarkably anachronistic relative to peers. Comparable only to the high school textbook Modern Biology in its tone-deafness.
Life1957Simpson, George Gaylord; Pittendrigh, Colin S.; Tiffany, Lewis HHarcourt, New York1 First "modern" text. Influenced BSCS texts. Eugenics banished, though authors state, "Under present conditions man's future biological evolution is more likely to be degenerative than progressive. (798)
Biology1962Villee, Claude A. (M) BioW. B. Saunders, Philadelphia4 Continues to cite Frederick Osborn and S. J. Holmes. Also cites Buck v. Bell, but removes "imbeciles" quote, still present in '57. Updated to include, "the recent discovery of safe and effective oral contraceptives may be applied to this problem ..." (507).
Biology and its Relation to Mankind1964Winchester, A. M (M) Colorado State CollegeD. Van Norstrand Company, New York1 Eugenics, a central feature in '49, eliminated by 2nd edition ('57). '64 introduced "scare picture" of a Down's teenager (labeled a "mongoloid)" with a frightening skin condition (551).
Biology1967Villee, Claude A. (M) BioW. B. Saunders, Philadelphia4 Continues to cite Frederick Osborn and Buck v. Bell, but drops mention of S. J. Holmes. Scheinfeld still serves as cover. Villee remains steadfast in his opinion that "one of the largest eugenic problems is that of the mental defectives," and that "the average intelligence of the population is decreasing from generation to generation" (570).
Biology1972Villee, Claude A. (M) BioW. B. Saunders, Philadelphia3 Villee finally(!) cleanses his text of any explicit reference to eugenics. However, in its place, and to close the chapter titled "Inheritance in Man: Population Genetics," the author substitutes two sub-sections - "Factors Changing Gene Frequencies: Differential Reproduction" and "Evolution: The Failure to Maintain Genetic Equilibrium" (718). Villee's citing of E. A. Hooton, C. S. Coon (786) and Franz Weidenreich (789) betray continued adherence to concepts of "racial development." Text could easily be classed as a "4," if one is willing to read, and not even too carefully, between the lines.
Biology: A Full Spectrum1973Moment, Gairdner B. (M) Goucher College Moment, Gairdner B. (M) Goucher College Bio (PDF); Habermann, Helen M (F) Goucher CollegeThe Williams & Wilkins Company, Baltimore2 A surprisingly late date to find eugenics indexed and the topic of genetic screening discussed under the label. Authors torn on the topic; speak of both negative and positive eugenics; consider modern "humane" negative eugenic measures for eliminating "horrible" conditions coded by dominant genes non-problematic (vs. Spartan exposure or Nazi gas chambers, p. 180). But also suggest that "afflictions" caused by recessive genes may serve as "gadflies to achievements of great benefit to the human race," noting the cases of Homer, Edison, Steinmentz and Byron (181).

The Aggressive Mutation of Post-War Eugenics

A weird thing happened in the years right after World War II: new college-level biology textbooks, rather than dropping the subject of eugenics, doubled down and began to defend the ideology with more aggressive rhetoric and moments of near-pornographic spectacle.

Biology: And Its Relation to Mankind by Baylor graduate and Stetson University (later Colorado State College/UNC) professor Albert M. Winchester, was published in 1949 – four years after the discovery of Nazi death camps supposedly marked the end of eugenics.

Yet Winchester’s textbook presented one the harshest defenses of eugenics published in the United States during the twentieth century.

And it was no outlier (WARNING: Disturbing photo below the fold). Continue reading

Ellsworth Huntington’s Fantastic Stories of Racial Superiority and Relative Humidity

Ellsworth Huntington was one of the early twentieth century’s most prolific science writers. The author of 28 books, contributor to 29 others and author of more than 240 articles, [1] Huntington was a climatic determinist who held that geography was the “basis for history.” [2] Civilization according to Huntington owed its rise to the weather. He suggested his superior “Teutonic stock” was a natural consequence of the same atmospheric conditions that cause thunderstorms.

But Huntington was worried. He felt he had solid statistical evidence that as his race took on what he thought was its evolutionary obligation to dominate it faced two serious threats: the physically and morally debilitating effects of the tropics and tropical women on WASPs who worked abroad, and the productivity-sapping effects of luxuries like central heating on those who worked at home.

Initially Huntington proposed simple mechanical solutions to these “problems,” like a housing unit that would artificially cycle its internal barometric pressure, and by this action keep his fellow New Englanders charged up wherever they lived. But in the 1920s, with his academic career stalled, Huntington’s ideas began to darken. In 1934 he accepted the presidency of the board of directors of the increasingly nativist American Eugenics Society. By 1935 he was applying his writing talents to the development of that group’s “catechism,” a chilling book titled Tomorrow’s Children.

Huntington was an odd duck, criticized even in his day for possessing an “overheated imagination” that saw patterns in data where none existed and forced facts to fit predetermined conclusions. So why bother studying a man who labored as a lowly Research Associate at an insulting salary at Yale for nearly the entirety of his professional life?

Huntington was a fantasist with little peer support, but his popularity demonstrates how adept he was at framing a folk-science that, to borrow a phrase from Jerome Ravetz, provided America’s ruling class “comfort and reassurance in the face of the crucial uncertainties of the world of experience.” [3] In Huntington we see a metaphor for a nation. Once a jaunty optimist who saw continued cultural domination as a minor engineering challenge, Ellsworth Huntington joined a generation that grew increasingly inclined to promote coercive social policies as it rationalized the rejection of its stumbling personal advances as accumulating proof that the species was in decline.

Continue reading

Biology’s Bomb: Graphing “Explosive” Population Growth in Cold War Textbooks

Cartoon reprinted in "The Population Bomb: Is Voluntary Human Sterilization the Answer" (c. 1961), a pamphlet published by Dixie Cup magnate Hugh Moore.

Cartoon reprinted in “The Population Bomb: Is Voluntary Human Sterilization the Answer” (c. 1961), a pamphlet published by Dixie Cup magnate Hugh Moore.

Prior to World War II, America’s protectors thought the country’s innocence could be guarded at its gates. Citizen biologists saw the nation’s border as kind of cartographic diaphragm, not entirely reliable in individual instances, but adequate to the task of containing the pool of potential breeders.

But conflict had led to contact, and contact had led to fear. Like the physicist’s “gadget,” biology’s “bomb” was conjured to protect the national body from penetration.

The “population bomb” was made as real and scary to school children in the 1960s as the H-bombs that drove them under their desks.

True, from the publication of George W. Hunter’s A Civic Biology in 1914 on, students had been taught that America had a “population problem.” But for the first four decades of the twentieth century, that problem wasn’t runaway growth, it was “differential reproduction.” Pre-war biology textbooks in fact warned that total population would level off by 1970 (see graph below), and when it did, the “quality” of the population would begin to decline if present fertility trends continued. The threat wasn’t one of too many babies. The threat was that too many babies were being born to the ‘wrong’ people – the poor, the criminal, the so-called ‘feeble-minded,’ the swarthy and the black.

As E. E. Stanford fussed in his 1940 biology textbook, Man & the Living World, “Families of professional and business classes of supposedly intellectual rating are not replacing themselves, while those of farmers, laborers, and above all, ‘reliefers’ still maintain increase” (722).

But by the war’s end, Stanford’s worry was decidedly out of fashion, a quaint relic, a Zeppelin in a jet age. Continue reading

What’s Buried in the Bentley Glass Archive?

Historian Audra Wolff has completed the Herculean task of creating a folder-level list of the contents of the Bentley Glass archive at the APS – all 90 linear feet of it! See her note on Facebook. Interested scholars are invited to email Wolfe for a copy.

Glass apparently saved every scrap of paper he ever stuffed into a briefcase, folder or trouser pocket. Wolfe told me she almost cried at the prospect of spending “most of an afternoon going through folders that contained train receipts and travel reimbursement requests.”

But what a treasure! The archive is far from “ordered,” according to Wolfe. But her list should prove an invaluable aid for historians of science and public policy, as Glass had his hands in just about everything during the Cold War.

Textbook History posts related to Bentley Glass are available here, and include this brief bio.

What Can a Google Ngram Tell Us About Eugenics, Biology and Science Textbooks In General?

I’ve been playing around with the new Google Ngram Viewer, an amazing application that allows searches within the text of the 5 million or so books Google has scanned to date. The Ngram Viewer allows users to enter multiple words or phrases and a date range, and then returns a graph of the use of those words or phrases relative to all the words published during the years specified. Though the tool has been reviewed as something of a time-suck or toy, applied using the very specific language of the social application of biology, I think it shows itself to be a pretty darn cool thing.

The chart above compares the frequency of the use of the word ‘eugenics’ in all books scanned by Google between the years 1905 and 1970 (blue line) with the relative priority of the topic of eugenics in American classrooms based on this author’s study of 80 high school biology textbooks (orange line).

A few fast searches turned up some interesting correlations and relationships: a cross in the popularity of the words ‘eugenics’ and ‘genetics’ in 1934; the rise and decline of eugenic-era terms ‘euthenics,’ ‘dysgenic’ and ‘feeble minded’ and the subsequent post-World War II popularity of the phrase ‘population explosion’; and the relative instances of the phrases ‘Kallikak family,’ ‘Juke family’ and ‘Nam family’, which revealed in a click data scholars might have spent years painstakingly counting.

The ‘eugenics’ curve was particularly interesting to me, as I had published a graph just last February based on the results of a survey that tracked the relative priority of the topic of eugenics in 80 American high school biology textbooks. Frankly, I was somewhat amazed by how closely my graph and Google’s paralleled one another.

Let me offer a couple of caveats before drawing any conclusions.

First, the vertical axis for both graphs is arbitrary. I ‘normalized’ the relative heights. Second, my graph is based on a subjective analysis of importance of eugenics in biology textbooks, while the Google graph is based on a hard word count of all texts published. Still, I think these parallel lines offer some interesting, if only suggestive, insights into a couple of questions asked about biology textbooks.

Assuming its okay to ‘normalize’ the vertical axis, what first jumps out is the obvious shift of 5 to 7 years between the height of popularity of the topic of eugenics in all texts and its popularity in biology textbooks. The second thing that pops is the apparent reluctance by authors to let go of eugenics, even as general interest in the topic began to wane dramatically starting in the late 1930s.

I hesitate to make too much of this, as a similar Ngram built using the word ‘evolution’ did not match my survey of the relative value of that topic in high school biology textbooks quite as neatly.

Still, something, don’t you think?

Karl Sax and The Population Explosion

Another quick post ahead of longer article on pre- and post-WWII population rhetoric. This from Karl Sax, The Population Explosion, the November 1956 entry in the Foreign Policy Association’s well-regarded “Headline Series” (click pic to view).

Sax is a very interesting transitional figure. Though he titled his 1945 article in The Science of Man in the World Crisis, “Population Problems,” his concern even by that late date was not on overpopulation, but on “differential fertility.” In other words, even at war’s end, Sax remained a eugenicist concerned with browning, not breeding, and the geography of his worries were more national than planetary.

However, Sax’s explicitly race-based “populationism” was fast falling out of fashion, as evidenced by articles like “The Concept of Race” by Wilton Marion Krogman, which shared space in The Science of Man in the World Crisis.

Change came in 1948 when two books – Fairfield Osborn’s Our Plundered Planet and William Vogt’s Road to Survival – introduced (or at least attempted to introduce) a more race-neutral ecologically based populationism. (See Pierre Desrochers and Christine Hoffbauer’s excellent article on this topic.)

But Sax would not be left behind. By 1951 he had adopted Osborn and Vogt’s “population bomb” metaphor, later popularized by Hugh Moore and Paul Ehrlich. In an article for The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Sax wrote, “population pressure [is] a far greater threat to world civilization than the atomic bomb.” In 1955 Sax authored Standing Room Only: The Challenge of Overpopulation.” This pamphlet was distilled from that book.

I’ll leave it to you to judge just how “race-neutral” Sax and the new populationism had become. (See for example Sax’s comparison of Puerto Rico and Japan on pages 42 and 43.)

The Population Bomb v1.0

I’m planning to write a longer piece over the next few days on the transition in biology textbook from a narrative that climaxed with the creeping danger of eugenic decay to one that warned of the imminent cataclysm of a “population bomb.”

But I couldn’t resist publishing these two little pamphlets right away. They’re rather rare and hard to find. Surprising, since something like 1.5 million were printed between 1954 and the mid-1960s.

You can page through either by clicking on its image. Reading them won’t take you long, as both are only 16 pages plus cover.

Many of you are no doubt familiar with Paul Ehrlich’s bestseller, The Population Bomb, first published in 1968. Those of us of a certain age remember it sitting on the well-read suburban rebel’s bookshelf right between The Naked Ape and The Greening of America. (Sorry about all the Wikipedia.) But Ehrlich borrowed his title and thesis (with permission and acknowledgement) from these little books published by something called the Hugh Moore Fund.

Who was Hugh Moore? He was the inventor of the Dixie Cup. By the 1940s he was investing a fair portion of the fortune he made denuding America’s hillsides and sanitizing its bathrooms promoting urgent action on “the population problem.” Though some scholars dismiss Moore as a crank, he was a friend to many powerful people, including William Draper, Jr. and the Bush family. His little 3″ x 6″ pamphlets introduced (or at least popularized) the exponential growth curve, forecasting a world overrun by brown people and communists! By the later 1960s, this scary little graph was shooting up and off the page of the best American high school biology textbooks (the one on the right is from the 1968 BSCS Yellow Version), turning even sex-crazed tenth-graders into rabid ZPGers! (Yeah, more Wikipedia.)

A bit more about more on Moore can be found in Jacqueline Kasun’s The War Against Population (2000). I’m afraid until I get around to writing a proper article, this snip will have to do.