Last month, Caltech announced that the names of six men with historical ties to the university would be removed from all“campus buildings, assets, and honors.”This unnaming came as the institution renounced its historical connections to the Human Betterment Foundation, a zealous pro-eugenics organization that influenced and admired Nazi racial hygiene policies in the 1930s and 1940s. Caltech determined that prominent trustees of the foundation, such as Caltech’s inaugural president and Nobel laureate Robert A. Millikan, no longer deserved to be commemorated at the university.
Also among the six whose names will be scrubbed from Caltech was Harry Chandler, who served as publisher of the Los Angeles Times from 1917 until his death in 1944.
Caltech was correct to recognize the pivotal role of the Human Betterment Foundation in spreading the eugenics gospel. The brainchild of wealthy agribusinessman Ezra Gosney, the foundation — through its biased studies, cherry-picked data collection, propagandizing and political sway — was instrumental in making California the most aggressive sterilizer of any of the 32 U.S. states that passed eugenic sterilization laws. From 1909 to...