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Biography 14: Charles Benedict Davenport (1866-1944)

Charles Davenport was one of the most prominent biologists of his time. He was born in Stamford, Connecticut, and went to Harvard University for his education. For a while, he was a professor at the University of Chicago.

In 1890, Davenport became the director of the Biological Laboratory established by the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences at Cold Spring Harbor. When the Carnegie Institute began looking for a place to set up a research center on evolution, Davenport convinced them that Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island, New York was the ideal locale. The Station for Experimental Evolution opened in 1904 with Davenport as its director. In 1910, with financial backing from the wife of E. H. Harriman, the railroad tycoon, Davenport established the Eugenics Records Office (ERO) at Cold Spring Harbor. Davenport believed that "the general program of the eugenicist is clear - it is to improve the race by inducing young people to make a more reasonable selection of marriage mates; to fall in love intelligently. It also includes the control by the state of the propagation of the mentally incompetent."

During the next 11 years, the ERO trained men and women on the "science" of eugenics and data collection. These field workers helped accumulate a large number of records on "inherited" human traits. The ERO published its results as bulletins, and had its own newsletter. Davenport and the eugenics movement influenced state laws on sterilization, immigration and miscegenation (mixed race marriages). In 1921, the ERO merged with the Station for Experimental Evolution to become the Department of Genetics. Davenport continued to be a director until 1934.

Description:
Charles Davenport was one of the leaders of the eugenics movement. He tried to shape human evolution by applying Mendel's laws to "build" better human stocks.
Keywords:
eugenics records office, charles davenport, charles benedict, eugenics movement, experimental evolution, mixed race marriages, human evolution, eugenicist, human traits, sterilization, biologists
Creative Commons License This work by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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15784. Charles Davenport, 1925
Charles Davenport was director of the Station for Experimental Evolution at Cold Spring Harbor when he obtained a gift from Mrs. E.H. Harriman to establish the Eugenics Record Office (ERO).
15786. Charles Davenport, about 1900
Charles Davenport was director of the Station for Experimental Evolution at Cold Spring Harbor when he obtained a gift from Mrs. E.H. Harriman to establish the Eugenics Record Office (ERO).
15787. Cover of the 1910 publication Eugenics, by Charles Davenport
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Charles Davenport, 1925, and Eugen Fischer, about 1938.
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Charles Davenport, first director of the Eugenics Record Office, 1932.
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Charles Davenport applies Mendel's laws to thalassophilia.
15740. Eugenics Record Office
The Eugenics Record Office in Cold Spring Harbor was established by Charles Davenport.
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