Comments of the Month from the Men of the Hour in science

10 Oct

Sometimes I read old magazines and newspapers for articles on disability. It is quite depressing reading about a time when eugenics was discussed openly and an accepted idea.

In such a search recently, I found this article. It is titled, Comments of the Month from the Men of the Hour in science.

Masthead for Comments from Men of Science

Masthead for Comments from Men of Science

This is from the magazine Popular Science, from 1923.

I cut out a depressing comment, from “Man of the Hour”, William Starr Myers of Princeton University. He makes a comment about the feeble minded (one of the old terms for intellectually disabled) and how the “Class A and Class B people do the work of the citizenship of this country.”

Then I saw the “Man of the Hour” listed beneath that sad statement. Prof. Frederick J. Rogers of the physics department Stanford University.

Class A brain Frederick J Rogers

Class A brain Frederick J Rogers

If you find that tough to read, here it is typed out:

Department of History and Politics, Princeton University

OF 105,000,000 persons in the United States, statistics show that 45,000,000 are subnormal and never would have the mentality of a child of 13: 15,000,000 are feeble minded and their brain power forever would be that of a child of 8. Of the remaining 45,000,000, at least 25,000,000 are classified as mediocre: 5,000,000 are rated as class A in mentality, and 15,000,000 as class B.

“Class A and Class B do the work of the citizenship of the country.”

followed closely by:

Of the Physics Department, Leland Stanford, Jr., University, whose body accidentally, came in contact with a 3000 Volt electric current–a voltage usually used for electrocution.

ELECTROCUTION is an entirely painless way of inflicting death. It knocked me cold. I never had a pain or a pang–in fact I never knew what happened to me until I was revived 15 minutes later.

“I can’t describe how it seems to be dead. For I have no recollection of sensations until I was revived.

“Death in electrocution is usually caused by stoppage of the heart. Sometimes stoppage of respiration causes asphyxiation.”

I wonder how many people in 1923 found it ironic that a “Class A” person like Prof. Rogers, the type upon whom we all depend, was “Man of the Hour in Science” for having electrocuted himself.

Very often it isn’t the gifts you are given but how you use them that counts.

12 Responses to “Comments of the Month from the Men of the Hour in science”

  1. julia October 10, 2009 at 05:36 #

    Hey, here is an opportunity. Someone is asking for “Autism Speaks Walk TEAM NAMES?
    I would like to register as a team, but i don’t know what to name my TEAM can anyone help me with Team Names?” on “Yahoo Answers” Here is a link to this question;_ylt=AgjfqzfDtx5h2Jd5UnpppegjzKIX;_ylv=3?qid=20091008173645AA7tTyf

  2. Clay October 10, 2009 at 22:15 #

    How about “AUTISM SPEAKS SUCKS!”
    I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place.

  3. Kowalski October 10, 2009 at 22:21 #

    “It is quite depressing reading about a time when eugenics was discussed openly and an accepted idea.”

    No, what’s depressing is that nothing has changed, eugenics is still discussed openly and it is still an accepted idea:
    See this comment on this blog.

  4. Joseph October 10, 2009 at 23:15 #

    Eugenics is alive and well, except almost no one calls it that. The only reason they don’t want to call it that is the association with Nazi Germany.

    According to Wikipedia “Eugenics is the study and practice of selective breeding applied to humans, with the aim of improving the species.”

  5. julia October 11, 2009 at 07:20 #

    Clay, I am sorry that i was not clear– I see it as an opportunity to tell her our opinion of Autism Speaks. I have seen very creative people respond to that self-serving video that they produced. I wished that it could happen in a small way to that question that i quoted from. However,it looks like the whole website is down today. The whole website is often used [by the type of questions asked] to promote the bio-med ideas, the vaccine as a cause ideas and often to generally insult autistic people. There are some kind people who respond in intelligent ways to the questions asked there but the bio-med people respond just as often. I think that this eugenics attitude is expressed there too.

  6. Clay October 11, 2009 at 08:28 #

    @julia – Sorry I misunderstood. Ya gotta be clear when talking to Aspies. I still think my suggestion for a team name is a good one, if you want to let them know your opinion. Do you mean the whole Autism Speaks website is down today, or the site you gave the link to? I was just able to access the latter one.

  7. julia October 11, 2009 at 09:04 #

    Clay,I mean Yahoo Answers, it was down for about 2 hours i guess. If only Autism Speaks was down! I would not go to the Autism Speaks site unless i wanted to get angry. The YA {Yahoo Answers] has about 60 questions on autism open to answer. I have tried to answer some in a calm and informative way to help the teenagers and any open-minded people asking questions there. I also posted on the CurrentTV website on autism over the last few months with the same goals. The YA site has some rude questions like “is autistic the new word for retarded?” I knew it might be a joke but i know some teenagers are that stupid and rude out there who could benefit from a serious answer. Then there are the leading questions like “what is the REAL reason the autism rate is going up?” I answered with the anecdotal evidence from my own life. How when i was a child in 1966 no one could identify why i was “odd”; but in 2007 they finally IDed me as being on the spectrum. So, the reason why it SEEMS to be going up is that doctors are more aware of who IS on the spectrum finally!

  8. David N. Brown October 11, 2009 at 09:57 #

    This sounds like part of the same crew that produced the 1918 Yerkes-Army test, which “proved” that 70-90% of people who can’t read, write and/or speak English are clinical morons.
    I have had an idea for some time about a science fiction story involving early IQ testing: “Alfred Binet must die!”

  9. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. October 11, 2009 at 10:21 #

    “I have had an idea for some time about a science fiction story involving early IQ testing: ‘Alfred Binet must die!'”

    Bit silly, don’t you think? Know much about the development of tests? How the whole thing of educational testing came about? Why Binet actually came up with his test and what his own thoughts were on it? Because if you don’t, then your “Alfred Binet must die” idea is specious at best and stupid at worst.

    Yes… Binet came up with a test. He was asked to do so by the French government, because of problems they were having when the mechanised their education system and banded it into chronological age bands. They foudn that some children were not performing as well as their age peers, and so a way of finding out who had difficulties keeping up was to be found, and he was asked to find it. He duly did so.

    He always said that this ‘ability’ thing was not a fixed quantity, but that it could well change over time; his interest was in finding the ones who would be likely to be helped by special remedial teaching. He was very concerned that this test would be misused and he was right to be: not all psychologists are as clever as he was, so they have tended to assume that intelligence is a fixed property, when there’s actually not a lot of evidence to suggest that it is… in fact, there’s plently to suggest that it does indeed have a very changeable and changing nature.

    So stop blaming Binet for the failings of those who misused his test. Okay?

    I am getting absolutely balled off these days seeing people who have read a little bit about some aspect of psychology and think that they’ve read enough to be able to comment authoritatively on the issues they’ve read about. Want to comment on psychology? Study it first … and _then_ comment; otherwise… can it.

    I’ve seen behaviour analysis being dragged through the mud, and indeed used to do it … until I got hold of some books and got into conversation with people who knew more about it than I did… guess what: Skinner is not the spawn of Satan; and Skinner’s ideas on what operant conditioning was about were not what was going through Lovaas’ head when he and Ferster were trying to describe autism in behavioural terms; Skinner wasn’t even interested in it.

    Also… hands up those who think that the radical behaviourist perspective eschews thoughts and feelings! Well… any with hands up, you’re totally wrong: Skinner himself said that ‘sometimes what people feel is as important as what they do’. Radical behaviourism, which is what Skinner’s ideas got called, was radical because it took into account the so-called private events… they have no special status or assumed causal status in behaviour analysis, but they are taken into account.

    Sorry but it pisses me off seeing inaccuracies used as some sort of means to bash someone and their work… straw-manning… behaviour analytic work is not in and of itself horrible or unethical: those are properties of the purposes to which it is put; and the same goes for testing… early IQ testing didn’t even mention IQ… it was a measure of performance designed to identify struggling pupils in French schools. Don’t blame Binet for the uses that Yerkes and Goddard put his test to!

  10. David N. Brown October 11, 2009 at 22:20 #

    I am mainly familiar with Binet et al through Gould’s “Mismeasure of Man”, which offers an entirely sympathetic portrait of Binet. (I have read another source which takes a less benign view.) I certainly would not wish to write a story “straw-manning” Binet. That would mean ignoring the most interesting aspects of his life and work.

  11. Dwight F October 12, 2009 at 22:28 #

    An ironic placement to be sure. But you don’t have to go back that far back to find eugenics right out in the open.

  12. Dwight F October 13, 2009 at 00:23 #


    No need for a cute team name to drive home the message. Straightforward:

    I would appreciate if you did not participate in the event at all, or support Autism Speaks. They:
    1) have publicity campaigns that are degrading and hurtful to autistic people.
    2) avoid any portrayal of capabilities of autistic individual and avoid any direct voice from autistic people, to the extent that they refuse employ any autistic person even in a volunteer position
    3) their government filing documents show they have very high overhead in salaries to their own limited number of executives and staff
    4) the same documents show the amount of money they distribute to for direct aiding of autistic individuals, and their families, is miniscule
    5) they attempt to influence the spending of public money by government agencies on very dubious research projects

    Thus donations to them are at best simply a waste of your money and time, and more likely is on the whole an negative impact autistic individuals.

    P.S. I don’t have a Yahoo account or I’d post that myself.

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