by William H. Schneider (Cambridge History of Medicine, C. Webster and C. Rosenberg, eds), 392 pp, $49.50, ISBN 0-521-37498-7, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 1990.
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Many historians have, during the past several decades, been fascinated by that body of ideas called "eugenics." Small wonder. Eugenics made a not insignificant contribution to the conditions that made the Holocaust possible. While Nazi medical atrocities, for instance, can be passed over as the work of a handful of evil, mad, or corrupt men, eugenics, by virtue of its widespread popularity in elite scientific circles of Western democracies, raises fundamental questions about the nature of medical science and its impact on modern societies.
Most histories of eugenics concentrate on its development in Germany, where it became something of an official ideology, and in the United States, which until the 1930s provided the major models of eugenic legislation. William Schneider has written an important study of eugenics in France, designed in part to demonstrate that the quest for "biological regeneration" was not limited to German- and English-speaking nations in the
Weisz G. Quality and Quantity: The Quest for Biological Regeneration in Twentieth-Century France. JAMA. 1991;266(24):3486-3487. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470240108045