January 27, 2011
The Indiana University Press has just published Professor Paul A. Lombardo’s newest book: A Century of Eugenics in America: From the Indiana Experiment to the Human Genome Era.
The book grew out of a symposium funded by the National Institutes of Health to study the Ethical Legal and Social Implications of Genetic Research on the occasion of the centennial of Indiana’s first-in-the-nation (1907) sterilization law. The law, based on the prevailing theory of eugenics, permitted the involuntary sterilization of thousands of Indiana citizens who were considered unfit to have children, including criminals, those thought to be "feeble-minded," the mentally ill, and people with epilepsy. The book contains ten essays by historians who surveyed the legacy of similar laws on eugenic sterilization in states such as Alabama, Minnesota, North Carolina, California and Indiana.
The book has been hailed as "a groundbreaking achievement in the historiography of American eugenics" by Joanne Woiak of the University of Washington.
Lombardo contributed an essay that connects the career of Georgia’s last-in-the-nation (1937) sterilization law to debates over poverty and eugenics fueled by the fiction of Erskine Caldwell. Caldwell’s novels confronted Georgians with the problems of the poor during the Great Depression, and heightened public awareness of proposed solutions to stop the perpetuation of family poverty across generations through such involuntary sterilization laws.
The new book is completed with two essays by scientists and a lawyer who look at the implications of current genetic science in light of eugenic history. The book may be ordered from Indiana University Press at http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=464617, and is also available on Amazon.