From eugenics to public health genetics in mid-twentieth century Minnesota.

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From eugenics to public health genetics in mid-twentieth century Minnesota.

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In the twentieth century, people in Minnesota experienced four developmental phases of human genetics in distinct organizational manifestations: the Minnesota Eugenics Society (organized in 1926), the Dight Institute for Human Genetics at the University of Minnesota (established in 1941), the Minnesota Human Genetics League (incorporated in 1945), and the Human Genetics Unit at the Minnesota Department of Health (authorized in 1959 and created in 1960). The first three phases are tied to the last, the unprecedented establishment of public health genetics that made Minnesota the first state to organize a public human genetics program. I examine the intellectual, scientific, and social roots of public health genetics and its relationship to the rest of public health practice before reaching the conclusion that the promise of public health genetics appeared to have been high for its proponents in the beginning, but because of the socio-cultural shifts of values in the 1970s and a poor fit with public health's traditional array of strategies, it did not thrive over time.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2011. Major: History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. Advisor:Jennifer Gunn. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 239 pages, appendix A.

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Holtan, Neal Ross. (2011). From eugenics to public health genetics in mid-twentieth century Minnesota.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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