Harry H. Laughlin (1880-1943) was an prolific American eugenicist, who was very influential in shaping the American eugenics movement. Heavily involved with advocating and researching eugenics, Laughlin served as the superintendent and assistant director of the Eugenics Records Office (ERO) located at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, from the foundation of the office in 1910, until 1921 (Truman State University, n.d.). From 1921 to 1940, Laughlin was the director of the ERO (Truman State University, n.d.). Other eugenics organizations Laughlin was involved with included the American Eugenics Society, as president (1927-1928); the Eugenical News, as associate editor (1916-1939); and the Third International Congress of Eugenics in New York, as secretary (1932) (Truman State University, n.d.).
Laughlin also worked on the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization in the United States between 1921 and 1931, as a eugenics expert; with the Municipal Court of Chicago as "Eugenics Associate" (1921-1930); and with the Department of Labor (1923-1924) regarding U. S. immigration (Truman State University, n.d.). Laughlin believed that certain immigrants, notably those from eastern Europe had more issues of "undesirability" compared to those from more northern European countries (Gur-Arie, 2014). He carried out studies to this end, which helped create restrictive immigration in the United States during the 1920s (Gur-Arie, 2014). Laughlin was also consulted during the establishment of the Immigration Restriction League in California, which sought to limit immigration into the United State to literature persons.
He worked closely with fellow eugenicist Charles Davenport. During his career, Laughlin issued many publications advocating eugenic policies, including sterilization, segregation, marriage bans, and immigration restriction, which targeted the "feeble-minded", alcoholics, etc. Like many eugenicists, Laughlin believed that the population could be "improved" by eliminating defectives through such measures.
His most notable work is Eugenical Sterilization in the United States (1922), which was hugely influential in the United States, particularly on legislation (Gur-Arie, 2014). The book included a "Model Eugenical Sterilization Law", used as a basis by more than 30 states in America who passed sterilization legislation, and by Germany in 1933 (Gur-Arie, 2014).
Laughlin was also a member of numerous leagues and societies, including the Immigration Commission of the International Labor Office of the League of Nations (1925), the Galton Society, the Eugenics Research Association, and the American Statistical Associate (Truman State University, n.d.).
Truman State University. (n.d.). Harry H. Laughlin. Pickler Memorial Library: Special Collections University Archives. Retrieved from https://library.truman.edu/manuscripts/laughlinbio.asp
Gur-Arie, R. (2014, December 19). Harry Hamilton Laughlin (1880-1943). Embryo Project Encyclopedia. ISSN: 1940-5030. Retrieved from https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/harry-hamilton-laughlin-1880-1943