Statens institut för rasbiologi

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The institute was housed in Dekanhuset in Uppsala.

Statens institut för rasbiologi (SIFR, Swedish: The State Institute for Racial Biology) was a Swedish governmental research institute founded in 1922 with the stated purpose of studying eugenics and human genetics. It was located in Uppsala and as a governmental agency, it was the world’s first of its kind. In 1958, it was replaced by the State Institute for Human Genetics [1] (Institutionen för medicinisk genetik) and is today incorporated as a department of Uppsala University. Its first head was Herman Lundborg.


After its founding in 1922, it continued under the leadership of Herman Lundborg. In 1926, studies conducted by the institute provided a basis for Lundborg's upper secondary school textbook 'Swedish Racial Studies'. However, Lundborg became increasingly anti-semitic which put him at odds with the Swedish Government during a time when tensions were growing between Sweden and Germany. In 1936, he was replaced by Gunnar Dahlberg. In 1958 it was integrated into Uppsala University, and is today the university's genetic center.

The Institute became associated with a forced sterilization program which affected 63,000 people and continued until 1975.[2]

The official assignment of the Swedish institute was to study the inhabitants of the country from a racial perspective. They studied the life conditions and environmental developments of different families. They tried to explain the effect biological heritage and the environment has on people. They also studied mental illnesses, alcoholism and criminality. Svenska sällskapet för rashygien (Swedish Society for Eugenics) was founded in 1909 and paved the way for SIFR. Its mission statement was to study eugenics. Svenska sällskapet för rashygien, and eugenics in general, didn’t gain ground until after World War I. In 1918 the society travelled around Sweden with an exhibit called “Folktyputställning” ("Exhibition about types of people"). The same year Frithiof Lennmalm, the headmaster of Karolinska Institutet proposed that the Nobel Foundation finance an institute for race biology. The Nobel committee for medicine voted unanimously in favour of the proposal. The staff of Karolinska Institutet voted against it with a very thin margin (9 against 8). Instead it was proposed that the Swedish state found and finance such an institute.

Around 1941, Nils von Hofsten, considered the most important researcher at the institute at the time, demanded from the National Board of Health and Welfare to provide a link between asocial behavior and heredity genetics. Besides unproven links, by accurate science, the social aspect was used to justify the Sterilization Act of 1941.[3]


  1. ^ According to the title page of the dissertation by Lars Beckman A contribution to the physical anthropology and population genetics of Sweden: variations of the ABO, Rh, MN and P blood groups. Hereditas (Lund), 0018-0661 ; 45(1959) the name of the institute at 1959 was The State Institute for Human Genetics and not the Institute for Medical Genetics.
  2. ^ Sweden's 'dark legacy' draws crowds to museum
  3. ^ Alberto Spektorowski and Elisabet Mizrachi (2004). "Eugenics and the Welfare State in Sweden: The Politics of Social Margins and the Idea of a Productive Society". Journal of Contemporary History.