Who Was Henry Goddard?


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Henry Goddard was a psychologist who was an advocate for intelligence testing and introduced the Binet Intelligence Test to the United States in 1908. While his research led to the development of special education programs for the mentally disabled and the concept of diminished capacity in legal trials, it also fueled the eugenics and scientific racism movements.

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Who Was Henry Goddard?
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Full Answer

Goddard's early work "The Kallikak Family" argued that parents with mental disorders or low intelligence could influence their descendants, tainting an entire family tree. His evidence was a single Revolutionary War soldier who married a "wholesome" woman and produced a line of normal descendants and later had an affair with a "feeble-minded" woman that resulted in a generation of criminals.

Goddard believed that those of low intelligence were a drag on society and even advocated for the sterilization or institutionalization of "mental defectives" to reduce the spread of their genes in society. He also believed that immigrants, African-Americans and other races had a higher proportion of these undesirables than Caucasians and was instrumental in the discredited race-group IQ testing in the U.S. Army during World War I.

Eventually, Goddard came to realize his beliefs about intelligence and race were incorrect and disowned much of his earlier conclusions. His work, however, remained popular among eugenicists and those seeking to validate racial discrimination for decades.

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