In 1921 the Second International Eugenics Congress was held in New York at the American Museum of Natural History. Leonard Darwin (Charles Darwin’s son) was the keynote speaker, and he used the opportunity to advocate aggressive eugenics programs for the “elimination of the unfit.” Eugenics had already made some headway in the United States, but after the Second Congress it really took off in the scientific community. Hundreds of universities instituted courses in the subject, and prestigious foundations like the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation began funding Eugenics research programs.
Public policy soon followed the scientific consensus of the time and eventually 36 states adopted eugenics laws of some kind. In 1927 Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., writing for the Supreme Court blessed the movement, famously declaring in Buck v. Bell that “three generations of imbeciles are enough.” These laws were supported by the overwhelming scientific consensus of the day.
In the following decades nearly 60,000 people were legally mutilated in the United States.
If today’ terms of derision had been in use in 1928, anyone opposed to the eugenics movement would have been called a “science denier.”