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.
In 1916, eugenicist Madison Grant published the book The Passing of the Great Race; or The Racial Basis of European History, hereafter The Passing of the Great Race, where he claimed that northern Europeans, or Nordics, are biologically and culturally superior to the rest of humanity. Charles Scribner’s Sons in New York City, New York, published the volume. Grant claimed that the Nordic race was at risk of extinction and advocated for the creation of laws in the US to decrease the population of people he considered inferior. According to Grant’s biographer Jonathan Spiro, Grant’s book synthesized a range of racist and pseudoscientific eugenics claims in prose that was accessible to the public. In the US, The Passing of the Great Race was praised by politicians, including former presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge, and cited as justification for laws that restricted immigration based on ethnicity and nationality. Adolf Hitler referred to The Passing of the Great Race as his Bible, and during the Nuremberg Trials in the 1940s, Nazi leaders who were prosecuted for war crimes committed during World War II presented the book as evidence that eugenics did not solely originate in Germany but rather had deep roots in the United States.
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.