A Mutant Fruit Fly
While reading pages 2 and 3 of John Taylor Gatto’s Weapons of Mass Instruction I found myself searching Google (and even Bing) to answer the following questions:
Question #1: Did an Eastern European scientist named Max Muller win a Nobel Prize for scheming to use X-rays to override normal genetic laws?
Question #2: Did the mad scientist’s Geneticists’ Manifesto (that called for state action to separate worthwhile breeding stock from the great mass of evolutionary dead end material) garner signatures of support from leading American and British biologists?
Book Mentions for Source Check: Pages 2 & 3
Question #1 Research Results:
Unverified: The “Max” Muller that Gatto refers to appears to be Hermann Joseph Muller. My cursory Google/Bing search did not turn up any sources in which Hermann Joseph was referred to as Max. Considering that Max Mason was named in the sentence that preceded Mr. Muller’s appearance in Gatto’s text, I suspect that a mistake may have slipped past the editor.
Unverified: Hermann Joseph Muller was reportedly born in New York City. Wikipedia claims that he was a third-generation American. However, Muller did move to the USSR during the mid 1930s to conduct eugenics research.
Verified: Hermann, a famed eugenicist, was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1946. The Genome News Network’s biographical sketch of Muller offers the following sanitized details:
X rays had been used in clinical medicine and for experimental purposes in physics since their discovery in 1895. But their value to genetics research only became apparent when Hermann Muller, an American geneticist, employed radioactivity to produce point mutations in the fruit fly Drosophila. (from Paragraph 1)
An outspoken, sometimes controversial scientist, Muller hoped that evolutionary principles could be used to improve humanity… He also supported “positive” eugenics through the use of reproductive technologies such as sperm banks and artificial insemination, but wrote that, “Any attempt to accomplish genetic improvement through dictation must be debasing and self-defeating.” (from Paragraph 7)
The Encyclopædia Britannica adds slightly more detail:
…he made a controversial suggestion that the sperm of gifted men be frozen and preserved as part of a purposeful program of eugenics for future generations.
I’ve Got a Funny Feeling: The fact that both texts mention a controversy surrounding Muller’s views on eugenics seems odd since both sources fail to provide meaningful clarifying details relating to this controversy. Was the mere suggestion that the future of mankind could benefit from the ethically sourced genetic material of gifted men the greatest of Muller’s alleged sins?
Question #2’s Research Results will be revealed in Part II of this blog entry.