Society for Biodemography and Social Biology

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The Society for Biodemography and Social Biology
Formation 1922
Hans-Peter Kohler
Formerly called
The Society for the Study of Social Biology;[1] The American Eugenics Society[2]

The Society for Biodemography and Social Biology, formerly known as the Society for the Study of Social Biology and the American Eugenics Society,[1] is dedicated to "furthering the discussion, advancement, and dissemination of knowledge about biological and sociocultural forces which affect the structure and composition of human populations."[3]


The Society formed after the success of the Second International Conference on Eugenics (New York, 1921). The founders included Madison Grant, Harry H. Laughlin, Irving Fisher, Henry Fairfield Osborn, and Henry Crampton. The organization started by promoting racial betterment, eugenic health, and genetic education through public lectures, exhibits at county fairs etc. Under the direction of Frederick Osborn the society started to place greater focus on issues of population control, genetics, and, later, medical genetics. In 1930, the Society included mostly prominent and wealthy individuals, and membership included many non-scientist. The demographics of the Society gradually changed, and by 1960, members of the Society were almost exclusively scientist and medical professionals. Consequentially, the society focused more on genetics and less on class-based eugenics.[2] After Roe v. Wade was released (1972), the Society was reorganized and renamed The Society for the Study of Social Biology.[2] Osborn said, “The name was changed because it became evident that changes of a eugenic nature would be made for reasons other than eugenics, and that tying a eugenic label on them would more often hinder than help their adoption. Birth control and abortion are turning out to be great eugenic advances of our time." [4][5] The name was most recently changed to Society for Biodemography and Social Biology.[1]

Notable members[edit]

Leon F. Whitney (Leon Fradley Whitney (1894-1973)) was the executive secretary.

The prominent list of original founders of sponsors of The American Eugenics Society each had some direct relationship with either Wickliffe Draper of The Pioneer Fund or Andrew Preston founder of The Boston Fruit Company, later United Fruit in New Orleans, LA:

In 1930 many of the wealthiest people in the world were members of the American Eugenics Society.

It earliest members and sponsors included:

J. P. Morgan, Jr., chairman, U. S. Steel, who handled British contracts in the United States for food and munitions during World War I. Wickliffe Draper used his J. P. Morgan Trust Account to fund The Mississippi Sovereignty Commission and its activities.

Mrs. Mary Duke Biddle, tobacco fortune heiress whose family founded Duke University.

Cleveland H. and Cleveland E. Dodge and their wives, who used some of the huge fortune that Phelps Dodge & Company made on copper mines and other metals to support eugenics.

Robert Garrett, whose family had amassed a fortune through banking in Maryland and the B&O railroad, who helped finance two international eugenics congresses attended by Harry Laughlin and Wickliffe Draper.

Miss Ellen Browning Scripps, from whose wealth came the Scrips-Howard newspaper chain and United Press (later UPI).

Dorothy H. Brush, Planned Parenthood activist, whose wealth came from Charles Francis Brush (1849–1929), who invented the arc lamp for street lights and founded the Brush Electric Company. Draper's version of Planned Parenthood was to pass the Involuntary Sterilization laws in 15 different U.S. States.

Margaret Sanger, also from Planned Parenthood, who used the wealth of one of her husbands, Noah Slee, to promote her work. Slee made his fortune from the familiar household product, 3-In-One Oil.

The other Finance Committee members included:

  • Leon F. Whitney was the Chairman. The Draper Looms in Hopedale, MA were used to spin the raw cotton harvested by the Eli Whitney cotton gins into fabrics, cloth and yarn.
  • Frank L. Babbott, the well-known philanthropist and educator.
  • Madison Grant, noted conservationist.
  • Mrs. Helen Hartley Jenkins and John H. Kellogg who started the Kellogg's Cereal Company.
  • John Kellogg and The Race Betterment Foundation[citation needed]

Kellogg was outspoken on his beliefs on race and segregation, in spite of the fact that he himself adopted a number of black children. In 1906, together with Irving Fisher and Charles Davenport, Kellogg founded the Race Betterment Foundation, which became a major center of the new eugenics movement in America. Kellogg was in favor of racial segregation and believed that immigrants and non-whites would damage the gene pool. He acted as a sort of mentor and advisor to Wickliffe Draper through his publications. Draper adopted Kellogg's recommendations and beliefs on subjects like racial segregation, anti-miscegenation laws, staunch anti-immigration attitudes and also the lifestyle choice of total sexual abstinence as a lifelong habit. Draper later died from prostate cancer.[citation needed]

Robert Garrett was one of the primary financial sponsors of the American Eugenics Society the personal project of Wickliffe P. Draper who sponsored most of the research behind "The Bell Curve" published in 1994. Garrett also served on the Finance Committee of the International Congress of The American Eugenics Society along with Madison Grant, author of "The Passing of the Great Race."[citation needed] Margaret Sanger [founder of Planned Parenthood] was a member of the American Eugenics society.

The Rockefeller family embodied the body of thought of eugenics, and contributed significantly by financial contributions and by activities.

Although not a founding member, Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer was accepted during World War II as a member of the American Eugenics Society, a position he kept until his death.[citation needed]

List of presidents[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Eugenics, Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology, (2014, pp 619-626)
  2. ^ a b c American Eugenics Society, Controlling Heredity,
  3. ^ The Society for Biodemography and Social Biology, Homepage (Last retrieved Nov 26, 2014)
  4. ^ Messall, Rebecca (Fall 2004). "The Long Road of Eugenics: From Rockefeller to Roe v. Wade". The Human Life Review 30 (4): 33–74, 67. PMID 15856597. 
  5. ^ American Eugenics Society, Inc. (1931). Organized eugenics: January 1931. pp. 3, 65. 

External links[edit]