Charles Benedict Davenport, Madison Grant, and Henry Fairfield Osborn founded the Galton Society for the Study of the Origin and Evolution of Man, or the Galton Society, in New York City, New York, in 1918. The Galton Society was a scientific society that promoted the study of humans in terms of race in service to the US eugenics movement. The Galton Society was named in honor of Francis Galton who first coined the term eugenics in 1883. Galton and other eugenics proponents claimed that the human species could improve through selective breeding that restricted who could have children. Some of the society members were scientists from a wide range of disciplines who supported the now disproven notion that fundamental biological differences exist between races that may justify the control of human reproduction. The Galton Society drew on the scientific credibility and influence of its members to advocate for eugenics programs, such as immigration restriction laws, in the US.
Madison Grant was a lawyer and wildlife conservationist who advocated for eugenics policies in the US during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In his 1916 book, The Passing of the Great Race; or, The Racial Basis of European History, Grant argued that what he called the Nordic race, which originated from northwest Europe, was biologically and culturally superior to all other people, including other Europeans. Grant drew from his now-discredited claims to lobby for laws in the US that restricted immigration, legalized sterilizing people against their will, and prohibited interracial marriage. Adolf Hitler referred to Grant’s book as his Bible and it was listed during the Nuremberg Trials in the late 1940s as evidence that eugenics did not solely originate in Germany. Grant’s advocacy of eugenics shaped policy that restricted reproductive freedom and immigration in the US and helped legitimize genocide in Europe.
The International Eugenics Congresses consisted of three scientific meetings held in London, England, in 1912 and at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, New York, in 1921 and 1932. Leonard Darwin, son of Charles Darwin, Henry Fairfield Osborn, the President of the American Museum of Natural History, and Charles Benedict Davenport, founder of the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York City presided over the Congresses. Scientists presented research in genetics and shared ideas for putting eugenics into practice, such as preventing people they considered inferior from reproducing through forced sterilization. The three International Eugenics Congresses increased scientific and public support of the eugenics movement in the early twentieth century, and established organizations to pursue eugenics agendas that contributed to the forced sterilization of hundreds of thousands of people in the US and Nazi Germany.