The Unknown History of Human Heredity: Asylums, Data, and Eugenics
Theodore M. Porter
When did the data of human heredity become an obsession? The great obsession of human genetics ca. 1910 was the inheritance of mental illness and mental disability. Asylum doctors developed tools to investigate the families of their patients, calculated probabilities of mental illness in offspring based on their ancestry, compiled pedigrees of insanity, and adopted filing technologies based on data cards. The new statistics and the new genetics of the early twentieth century grew from data and research methods from these institutions.
Theodore Porter is professor of history at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA)