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Eugenics at Stanford: Jordan, Terman, and Other Legacies

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In 2020, Stanford University removed monuments to zoologist and geologist Louis Agassiz and his student, former university president David Starr Jordan, in response to community concern over their role in eugenics, but there has not been a broad public discussion or scholarly analysis of this legacy. This presentation by Murphy Halliburton aimed to begin this remembrance and analysis. Eugenics, which is the practice of “improving” the human race through selective breeding, has a profound history in the United States. Eugenicists in the US engaged in the forced sterilization of thousands of Americans who were deemed racially or genetically unfit and promoted breeding among those considered fit. Most histories of eugenics prioritize the work of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island and particular East Coast eugenicists. Professor Halliburton argued, based on archival research into the work of David Starr Jordan, Lewis M. Terman and others, that Stanford was an equally central institution of eugenic thinking. 

Murphy Halliburton photo

Murphy Halliburton is a professor of anthropology at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York as well as an alumnus of Stanford University and Palo Alto’s Lewis M. Terman Middle School.