Science Focus - the home of BBC Science Focus Magazine
Subhadra Das: What part has science played in racism? (British scientist Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911) © Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Subhadra Das: What part has science played in racism?

Published: 05th November, 2020 at 11:30
Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine and get 6 issues for just £9.99

Historian and museum curator Subhadra Das explains how science history played a part in fuelling the racism seen in society today.

Not so long ago, English scientists believed that they could study differences between people and that certain ethnicities were ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than others – of course, white Europeans were put at the top of any list.


In the 19th Century, anthropologist and statistician Francis Galton took this even further when he coined the term ‘eugenics’, the idea that science could better the human race by promoting the spread of certain genes, deemed ‘good’, and by halting the distribution of those deemed bad.

While these Victorian ideas have since been refuted and discarded by the scientific community, there are those in society that turn to race science in an attempt to justify their bigotry and racism.

Subhadra Das has spent the last eight years as a museum curator for the science collections at University College London, specialising in the history of scientific racism and the history of eugenics.

She tells us how Francis Galton’s idea spread through Victorian society, and why it’s important to understand science’s racist history in order for us to move forward.

Let us know what you think of the episode with a review or a comment wherever you listen to your podcasts.

This podcast was supported by, helping people build quantitative skills in maths, science, and computer science with fun and challenging interactive explorations.

Listen to more episodes of the Science Focus Podcast:



Amy BarrettEditorial Assistant, BBC Science Focus

Amy is the Editorial Assistant at BBC Science Focus. Her BA degree specialised in science publishing and she has been working as a journalist since graduating in 2018. In 2020, Amy was named Editorial Assistant of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors. She looks after all things books, culture and media. Her interests range from natural history and wildlife, to women in STEM and accessibility tech.


Sponsored content