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Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme


  Constantin David Kilcher


  Faculty of History, Clare College

  PhD thesis: The “Zurich Moment” of European Eugenics

  Research interests:
  1. History of Science
  2. Modern European History
  3. Philosophy of History
  4. Music


My PhD focuses on the emergence of eugenics as a science in Zurich around 1890. I investigate personal and institutional networks in late 19th century Zurich, Switzerland, through which eugenics went from an obscure idea to a piece of scientific knowledge. The aim is to understand the processes by which something becomes knowledge, as well as to add the “Zurich Moment” to the history of European eugenics. I work partially with the institutional sources of the psychiatric hospital and the University of Zurich and partially with correspondences and other personal sources of the various actors in the networks.


Who or what inspired you to pursue your research interests?

I was originally inspired to pursue my research interests by a combination of courses during my undergraduate. I took classes both on the Holocaust as well as the links between science and religion. The notion of “life unworthy of life” emerged as a mutual problem and led to the history of eugenics. In the course of my research, I have moved further back from the 30s and 40s and uniquely focus on late 19th century eugenics. Current advances in the area of genetic modification give a special urgency to my work.