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Genomic Equity Series: History of eugenics with Adam Rutherford

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The Genomic Equity Series is a monthly online series hosted by the Diverse Data initiative at Genomics England, in collaboration with the Data Science for Health Equity community, which aims to share the latest experiences, projects and research of those working to improve equity in genomic medicine across the world.

For the third instalment of this series, we are delighted to host author and geneticist Adam Rutherford to speak about the history of eugenics, the importance of data diversity, structures of bias, and its implications on modern day genetics.

In his recent book, Control: The Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics, Adam delves into the origins of eugenics. However, the underlying ideas are not just historical. The legacy of eugenics persists in our language and literature, from the words 'moron' and 'imbecile' to the themes of some of our greatest works of culture. Today, with new gene editing techniques, very real conversations are happening as technological advancements allow for rare diseases to be identified before a child is even born.

Control tells the story of attempts by the powerful throughout history to dictate reproduction and regulate the interface of breeding and society. It is an urgently needed examination that unpicks one of the defining and most destructive ideas of the twentieth century. To know this history is to inoculate ourselves against its being repeated.

Adam Rutherford is a geneticist, author, and broadcaster. He was an audio-visual content editor for the journal Nature for a decade, and is a frequent contributor to the newspaper The Guardian. He hosts the BBC Radio 4 programmes Inside Science and (with Hannah Fry) The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry; has produced several science documentaries; and has published books related to genetics and the origin of life.


  • 12:00 Welcome to the Genomic Equity Series (Maxine Mackintosh, Genomics England)
  • 12:05 Presentation (Adam Rutherford)
  • 12:35 Discussion and audience Q&A
  • 13:00 Close


About the series organisers

Diverse Data

Diverse Data is a new initiative set up by Genomics England to reduce inequalities in genomic medicine, by ensuring that all patients, regardless of their background, receive the same quality of genomics-enabled personalized medicine, supported by the latest research on people like them. The initiative will be setting up new research projects, working closely with community groups, conducting large-scale sequencing efforts, and will be building practical tools to support everyone in the genomics community to put equity at the centre of their work. Find out more about the initiative here.

Data Science for Health Equity

Data Science for Health Equity is global community that brings together experts, enthusiasts and hobbyists working at the intersection of data science and health inequalities to ensure that the latest research and innovations improve health equity. Find out more about the community here.

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