A theory out of the darkness

Source: The Age

ROSS Jones loves to scour through piles of long-forgotten papers stored in musty archives. He never knows what secrets he might dig up.

”It’s the best fun,” he says. ”You discover wonderful documents and you go, ‘Yes, that’s it. Wow, look at this.’ When you see a letter, a name, you think, ‘this is bigger than I thought’.”

And sometimes he is simply shocked, such as when he stumbled upon the uncomfortable details about the promotion of eugenics and racial science in Melbourne in the first half of the 20th century.

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Eugenics, based on theories to improve the genetic characteristics of humans, underpinned the Nazi philosophy that led to the Holocaust. Many eugenicists advocated that criminals and people with low IQs should be stopped from having children.

But the important role Melbourne University and the city’s academic, social and political elite played in the movement has largely gone unnoticed. Dr Jones, an Australian Research Council postdoctoral fellow at the University of Sydney, says this is because it is hardly mentioned in the official histories of the university.

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