Clyde Keeler Overview Initial Research

Overview Keeler and Eugenics

Bio from American National Biography

  • Clyde Keeler was involved with writing a report on Eugenics and Sterilization for the American Neurological Association entitled Eugenical Sterilization (citation below) According him the Eugenic and sterilization study he was involved in suggested that there was a “paucity of accurate knowledge”. The study recommended further research according to Keeler in his Autobiography (Keeler, 93)
  • EUGENICAL STERILIZATION. By the Committee of the American Neurological. Association, A Myerson, Chairman. New York Macmillan, 1933 Pp 21
  • A review (citation below) of this work praised what sounds like the literature review found in the work, but chastised the group for focusing on what it called older research.         
  • Landis, Carney. 1938. “Review of ‘Eugenical Sterilization’.” The Journal Of Abnormal And Social Psychology 33, no. 3: 420-421. PsycARTICLES, EBSCOhost (accessed September 12, 2014).
  • Another review explains the points of the work much better, and I think this gets a Keeler’s opinion on Eugenics. Of course reading the entire book would be best, but I can’t quickly get a copy of it. E. B. Reuter wrote: “The general position reached by the committee is to the effect that the present knowledge of human genetics is not such as to justify any thorough going eugenic program of sterilization.” further is it says “law should be voluntary rather than compulsory, free of group or class distinctions, and apply only to select case of” and the review list several hereditary disease including “feeble-mindness of familial type”, schizophrenia, manic-depressive psychosis, and epilepsy.
  • Eugenical Sterilization. by Abraham Myerson; James B. Ayer; Tracy J. Putnam; Clyde E. Keeler; Leo Alexander Review by: E. B. Reuter American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 43, No. 3 (Nov., 1937), p. 510

Opinion: Taken together this suggests, Keeler was actually using science to go against the movement among states to enact sweep sterilization legislation. You can’t say he didn’t support sterilization, but that support was extremely conditional. It’s telling that the group reference “group or class distinction”, which could be taken to mean race or ethnicity which was directly related to the growing German Eugenic movement.

Keeler’s Visit to Germany

  • From War Against the Weak “Clyde Keeler, a Harvard Medical School researcher at Lucien Howe’s laboratory, visited Verschuer’s swastika- bedecked institute at the end of 1938. There he was able to see the center’s anti-Jewish program and its devotion to Aryan purity. Upon his return to the United States, Keeler gave fellow eugenicists a glow- ing report. On February 28, 1939, Danforth of Stanford wrote Verschuer to applaud him, adding that Keeler “thinks that you have by all means the best equipped and most effective establishment of the sort that he has seen anywhere. May I extend my congratulations and ex- press the hope that your group will long continue to put out the same excellent work that has already lent it distinction.”
  • Letter, C.H. Danforth to Otmar von Verschuer, 28 February 1939: Universitätsarchiv Münster: Nachlass Verschuer Nr. 4.
    – Letter is in the archives for the University of Munster. Letter
    • Cannot view this record online beyond the finding aid, but it’s telling Keller never mentions Danforth in his writings about the time and the Howe Laboratory. Also this letter is not from Keeler, but Danforth. The rest of Danforth’s writing to Verschuer appear to be glowing and fawning, but without read- ing one nothing is certain.
  • Keeler was in Europe in 1938 on a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was also a Reserve Officer(Keeler, 152)
  • During this fellowship he visited Genetics labs in the UK, US and included stops in Russia, London, and Germany. (Keeler 149, 119)
  •  Keeler doesn’t mentioning visiting Verschuer’s Institute of Hereditary Biology in his book only his connection the Agricultural University of Berlin, but it’s very likely he would have if he was making a tour of all Genetic Labs in Europe. Keeler’s only note sugguest he was in Germany when the Sudetenland was annexed, and promptly left at the suggestion of the American Consulate.(1953)
    Opinion: Keeler’s visit to Verschuer’s lab as presented in the War Against the Weak is a second hand account. We have no idea what exactly Keeler thought of this lab.

Keeler’s Dismissal from GSCW

  • Keeler notes that he seems to have had problems with former president Lee, and he was essentially pushed out of the university, had his tenure revoked, and received a temporary and terminal contract in 1961 for teaching Chemistry. (keeler 199 – 200)

Opinion: Research would have to be done to substantiate this claim, but it would probably mean a great deal in spirit at least if we acknowledge Keeler’s influence on campus

Extra Information


According to the book From a Race of Masters to a Master Race: 1948 to 1848, the main purpose of the “Eugenical Sterilization” books was intended as a taken down of the eugenics that existed in the US and the rest of the world, specifically to attack what was going on in Nazis Germany. One of the author’s of that report was actually the scientist Leo Alexander, who incidental was at the Nuremberg Trials as consultant for the prosecution. Along Abraham Meyerson, who was actually actively fighting the ideas promoted by C.H. Danforth who is the one who included Keeler in his letter to Germany. (Keeler actually discusses Myerson in his Autobiography). This work further cited others that argue that this was the first scientific work that actively tried to counter act the Eugenics movement as it was in the United States. One going as far as to say that it would become “one of the most sophisticated and comprehensive rebuttals of the claims by proponents of Eugenics” (107)

Further study of Keeler’s autobiography shows that when this letter that CH Danforth wrote to Germany would have been composed, Keeler was facing a hostile environment at the Howe and Harvard due to the administration not favoring his research in genetics, and he resigned that year.