Eugenics Record Office

The Eugenics Record Office (ERO) at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, United States was a center for eugenics and human heredity research in the first half of the twentieth century. Both its founder, Charles Benedict Davenport, and its director, Harry H. Laughlin were major contributors to the field of eugenics in the United States.

Founded in 1910, the ERO was financed primarily by Mary Harriman (widow of railroad baron E. H. Harriman), the Rockefeller family and then the Carnegie Institution until 1939. In 1944 it closed, and its records were transferred to the Charles Fremont Dight Institute for the Promotion of Human Genetics at the University of Minnesota. When the Dight Institute closed in 1991, the genealogical material was filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah and given to the Center for Human Genetics. The non-genealogical material was not filmed and was given to the American Philosophical Society Library. The American Philosophical Society has a copy of the microfilm as well.

The endeavors of the Eugenics Record Office were facilitated by the work of various committees. The Committee on Inheritance of Mental Traits included among its members Robert M. Yerkes and Edward L. Thorndike. The Committee on Heredity of Deafmutism included Alexander Graham Bell. Harry H. Laughlin was on the Committee on Sterilization, and the Committee on the Heredity of the Feeble Minded included, among others, Henry Herbert Goddard. Other prominent board members included scientists like Irving Fisher, William E. Castle, and Adolf Meyer.

Under the direction of Laughlin, the ERO advocated laws that led to the forced sterilization of many Americans it categorized as 'socially inadequate'.

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