A Brief History of Eugenics in America: Implications for Medicine in the 21st Century
with Allen M. Spiegel
Offered in partnership with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The eugenics movement in early 20th century America was based on a limited understanding of human heredity, and culminated in a nationwide program of forced sterilization of those deemed unfit to reproduce. A related aspect of the eugenics movement was exclusion of undesirable immigrants who were of “bad blood.” What lessons can we learn from America’s eugenics movement that will help us answer the difficult questions raised by striking advances in biomedicine in the 21st century? In vitro fertilization, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, non-invasive prenatal fetal screening, gene replacement, genome editing and reproductive cloning will require us to address what it means to be a “normal” human. This master class will consider the historical context of these powerful technologies as well as their social and ethical implications.

Allen M. Spiegel, a widely renowned physician-scientist, was Dean of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine from 2006 to 2018, and remains on the faculty as Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology) and Molecular Pharmacology. Prior to joining Einstein, he was Director of the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive Diseases & Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the culmination of a distinguished 33-year-career at the NIH. His research on signal transduction helped to clarify the genetic basis of several endocrine diseases. A member of the National Academy of Medicine, Dr. Spiegel earned his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University in 1967. He received his M.D. degree cum laude and Alpha Omega Alpha from Harvard Medical School in 1971 and completed his clinical training at Massachusetts General Hospital.