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Inbreeding, Eugenics, and Helen Dean King (1869-1955)

Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie
Journal of the History of Biology
Vol. 40, No. 3 (Sep., 2007), pp. 467-507
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/29737498
Page Count: 41
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Inbreeding, Eugenics, and Helen Dean King (1869-1955)
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Abstract

Helen Dean King's scientific work focused on inbreeding using experimental data collected from standardized laboratory rats to elucidate problems in human heredity. The meticulous care with which she carried on her inbreeding experiments assured that her results were dependable and her theoretical explanations credible. By using her nearly homozygous rats as desired commodities, she also was granted access to venues and people otherwise unavailable to her as a woman. King's scientific career was made possible through her life experiences. She earned a doctorate from Bryn Mawr College under Thomas Hunt Morgan and spent a productive career at the Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology in Philadelphia where she had access to the experimental subjects which made her career possible. In this paper I examine King's work on inbreeding, her participation in the debates over eugenics, her position at the Wistar Institute, her status as a woman working with mostly male scientists, and her involvement with popular science.

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