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Eugenics and Basic Genetics in H.J. Muller's Approach to Human Genetics

Elof Axel Carlson
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Vol. 9, No. 1 (1987), pp. 57-78
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23328769
Page Count: 22
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Eugenics and Basic Genetics in H.J. Muller's Approach to Human Genetics
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Abstract

H. J. Muller was a contributor to both human genetics and eugenics throughout his career. Among his contributions to human genetics were twin studies, estimation of allele frequencies under conditions of impairment either in homozygous or heterozygous states, introduction of the concept and estimates of genetic load, and analysis of radiation genetic effects on the human genome. His eugenic contributions were essentially Galtonian positive eugenics, especially for intelligence, health, longevity, and cooperative personality. Muller repudiated the American eugenics movement (1900-1930) as biased and unworkable. In 1936, he advocated a positive eugenics program in the USSR that was ignored and considered reactionary. In the late 1950s he modified his eugenic program, calling it germinal choice. He also attempted to start a sperm bank for that program but withdrew when he had misgivings about its direction. Muller's major contribution to human genetics was his recognition that even low doses of radiation are of concern to society. He failed to convince his peers or the public that the abuses of eugenics can be prevented or that any form of eugenics is either necessary or desirable.

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