Racial Hygiene - Father and Son
Drs. Von Fritz Lenz (1887-1970) and his son, Von Widukind Lenz (1919-1995), became well known German medical geneticists. Some consider the former to be rather infamous. In contrast, few would dispute the deserved fame of Dr. Von Widukind Lenz. His contributions were reviewed by his compatriots J. M. Opitz and H. R. Wiedemann (Am. J. Med. Genet. 65: 142, 1996).
There is little dispute that Von Fritz Lenz was involved in the "racial hygiene" policies of Nazi Germany. One tenet upheld by Von Fritz Lenz was that race was "the ultimate principle of value". One year after the end of World War II, Von Fritz Lenz regained his position as Professor of Genetics, while his son Widukind was still a prisoner of war.
Better known are the contributions of the son, Dr. Von Widukind Lenz,
who gained international fame by directing scientific attention to thalidomide
as a strong human teratogen. Worth noting is a paragraph by H. R. Wiedemann:
"Schafer (Chairman of Pediatrics)... encouraged Lenz's studies of the cause
of the epidemic of malformations first documented by one of us in 1961
(in Am. J. Med. Genet. 65: 143, 1996). After the Thalidomide related events
of 1962, W. Lenz made many other substantial contributions to promote a
better understanding of birth defects and genetics.