World Population Conference

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The World Population Conference was held at the Salle Centrale, Geneva, Switzerland, from 29 August to 3 September 1927. Organized by the League of Nations and Margaret Sanger, the conference was an attempt to bring together international experts on population, food supply, fertility, migration and health to discuss the problem of human overpopulation. Sir Bernard Mallet presided over the meeting, and William H. Welch was vice-president.


The conference was truly international, with one hundred and twenty-three delegates from Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, the Netherlands, India, Italy, Japan, Norway, Peru, Poland, Siam, Spain, the Soviet Union, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. Sessions included papers followed by open discussion on topics including biology and population growth, food and population, differential fertility, falling birth rates, international migration and migration restriction, heredity, and disease.[1]


The World Population Conference succeeded in drawing attention to the study of population growth and established the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population. British Malthusian leader Charles Vickery Drysdale noted that the meeting was "devoid of propagandism," and that the "weight of authority at it has surpassed all the previous gatherings, and has been second to none in brilliance. The simple fact that nearly two hundred persons of the highest eminence in biological, economic and statistical science, sociologists, statesmen, and physicians have come from all parts of the world to Geneva to confer on this question is sufficient to show that it cannot be disregarded and that it will have to be considered by the Governments of all countries."[2] A second World Population Conference, sponsored by the United Nations was held in 1954 in Rome, and a third in 1974 in Bucharest.

Margaret Sanger's Role[edit]

Margaret Sanger conceived of the World Population Conference and organized a group of scientists including Raymond Pearl, Edward Murray East, and Clarence Cook Little, to develop the program and invite speakers. She agreed that birth control would not be discussed. She established an office to administer the conference in Geneva, but just before the Conference was to open, Sir Bernard Mallet removed her name and the names of her all-female administrative staff from the printed conference programs, using the excuse that administrators and clerical staff should not be listed in a scientific program. Sanger's staff quit in protest. Sanger persuaded most back, arguing that the meeting was more important than who was credited.[3] Sanger edited the Proceedings of the World Population Conference.


  1. ^ Sanger, Margaret (1927). Proceedings of the World Population Conference. London: Edward Arnold & Co. pp. 363–68. 
  2. ^ Drysdale, C. V. (October 1927). "The First World Population Conferrnce: Some Impressions". Birth Control Review. XI (10): 255. 
  3. ^ Margaret Sanger Papers Project (Spring 1994). "From Geneva to Cairo: Margaret Sanger and the First World Population Conference". Margaret Sanger Papers Project Newsletter. Retrieved 2013-04-26.