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Genetics and Eugenics

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The geneticist James Watson discovered, with partner Frances Crick, the structure of DNA in 1953, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962 (along with Crick and Maurice Wilkins). But with his recent controversial comments--for which Watson later apologized--concerning inherent ability as it relates to genetics and race, the attention focusing on the laureate became somewhat less laudatory. Watson was suspended from his duties at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, now one of the premier cancer and genetic research facilities in the country, but formerly "the center of American eugenics research from 1910-1940."

Today, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory hosts Internet exhibits acknowledging, documenting, and exploring this darker part of scientific history. The exhibits and archives display the history and eventual discrediting of the eugenics movement, which used pseudoscience to advocate for, among other things, exclusionary immigration policies and laws in 33 states that provided for sterilization of the criminal or "unfit."

Eugenics Archive

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