In the first of a new two-part documentary on BBC Four, science journalist Angela Saini and disability rights activist Adam Pearson take a walk around Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia to discover the people and the institutions behind the controversial idea that the human race can be improved by selective breeding.
They reveal that eugenics, a driving force behind the Nazi death camps, originated in the British scientific community.
“We tend to associate eugenics with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, but it was in fact developed in London. Its founder was Francis Galton, who established a laboratory at UCL in 1904,” says Saini.
The presenters uncover how eugenics shaped immigration law, education policy and even town planning. The documentary uncovers disturbing links between British universities and German race scientists in the first half of the 20th century, and investigates how eugenics fed into the racist ideologies of Nazi Germany.
In part two, they ask if eugenic-style attitudes towards the poor and disabled continue to shape today’s society.
BBC iplayer, Eugenics: Science’s Greatest Scandal.