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Control: The Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics

Adam Rutherford

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Genetics (non-medical)

A short, highly directed guide to an area of science that is little understood but increasingly part of public discourse by the Sunday Times bestselling author of HOW TO ARGUE WITH A RACIST

*** FROM THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF HOW TO ARGUE WITH A RACIST ***

Throughout history, people have sought to improve society by reducing suffering, eliminating disease or enhancing desirable qualities in their children. But this wish goes hand-in-hand with the desire to impose control over who can marry, who can procreate and who is permitted to live. In the Victorian era, in the shadow of Darwin's ideas about evolution, a new full-blooded attempt to impose control over unruly biology began to grow in the clubs, salons and offices of the powerful. It was enshrined in a political movement that bastardised science, and for sixty years enjoyed bipartisan and huge popular support: eugenics.

Eugenics was vigorously embraced in dozens of countries. It was also a cornerstone of the Third Reich, and forged a path that led to the gates of Auschwitz. But the ideas underlying eugenics are not merely historical. Its legacies persist in our language and literature, from the words 'moron' and 'imbecile' to the themes of some of our greatest works of culture. Today, with new gene editing techniques, very real conversations are happening - including in the heart of British government - about tinkering with the DNA of our unborn children, to make them smarter, fitter, stronger.

CONTROL tells the story of attempts by the powerful throughout history to dictate reproduction and regulate the interface of breeding and society. It is an urgently needed examination that unpicks one of the defining and most destructive ideas of the twentieth century. To know this history is to inoculate ourselves against its being repeated.

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Adam Rutherford

Dr Adam Rutherford is a scientist, writer and broadcaster. He has written and presented award-winning series and programmes for the BBC, including Radio 4's Inside Science and The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry with Dr Hannah Fry. He is the author Creation, shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Prize, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, The Book of Humans, the Sunday Times bestselling How to Argue With a Racist and the co-author of Rutherford and Fry's Complete Guide to Absolutely Everything (Abridged).

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