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Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 33–72 | Cite as

Scientific Discrimination and the Activist Scientist: L.C. Dunn and the Professionalization of Genetics and Human Genetics in the United States

  • Melinda Gormley
Article

Abstract

During the 1920s and 1930s geneticist L.C. Dunn of Columbia University cautioned Americans against endorsing eugenic policies and called attention to eugenicists’ less than rigorous practices. Then, from the mid-1940s to early 1950s he attacked scientific racism and Nazi Rassenhygiene by co-authoring Heredity, Race and Society with Theodosius Dobzhansky and collaborating with members of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) on their international campaign against racism. Even though shaking the foundations of scientific discrimination was Dunn’s primary concern during the interwar and post-World War II years, his campaigns had ancillary consequences for the discipline. He contributed to the professionalization of genetics during the 1920s and 1930s and sought respectability for human genetics in the 1940s and 1950s. My article aims to elucidate the activist scientist’s role in undermining scientific discrimination by exploring aspects of Dunn’s scientific work and political activism from the 1920s to 1950s. Definitions are provided for scientific discrimination and activist scientist.

Keywords

activist scientist anthropology Columbia University eugenics Franz Boas Genetics Society of America Heredity Race and Society human genetics L.C. Dunn race racism scientific discrimination Statement on Race Theodosius Dobzhansky UNESCO 

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Notes

Acknowledgments

I thank Paul Lawrence Farber, Mary Jo Nye, Robert A. Nye and the anonymous reviewers for their feedback. Funding from the National Science Foundation and American Philosophical Society made the archival research possible.

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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