Sex and the Species: Making Human Meaning of Animal Bodies at Cold Spring Harbor Eugenics Laboratories

Lunchtime Lectures
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
1:00 p.m.–1:45 p.m. EST (UTC -5)

In the early years of the 20th century, researchers at the Eugenics Record Office and the Station for Experimental Evolution dreamt of achieving white perfection through science. As they set out to understand heredity and gain control over reproduction, much of their research came to be about sex and its role in making better forms of life. This talk explores the way that eugenic scientists deployed a capacious and often contradictory understanding of what sex was—static or malleable, hormonal or anatomical, binary or not—depending on what species they were using in their research and what kinds of problems they wanted to solve. Using animal sex studies to make claims about how humans should live, it turned out, wasn’t as simple as they had hoped.



Beans Velocci headshot

Beans Velocci

About the Speaker

Beans Velocci (they/them) is a PhD candidate in the department of history at Yale University. They are currently finishing a dissertation titled “Binary Logic: Race, Expertise, and the Persistence of Uncertainty in American Sex Research,” which uses queer and feminist science and technology studies and histories of sexuality, race, and the life sciences to argue that sex works as a classification system because everyone has agreed that it doesn’t have to make sense. Research for this talk was generously supported by fellowships from the American Philosophical Society and the Yale Fund for Lesbian and Gay Studies.

About the Series

Now combined with our Saturday Speaker Series, Lunchtime Lectures take a rigorous and entertaining approach to exploring topics for scholars and anyone interested in stories about the history of science. The talks help expand perceptions of the nature of science and how it’s done. This season focuses on the human lives behind biological research.