Caltech to Remove the Names of Robert A. Millikan and Five Other Eugenics Proponents from Buildings, Honors, and Assets


Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum, acting on unanimous recommendations from the Committee on Naming and Recognition (CNR) and the authorization of the Caltech Board of Trustees, today announced the removal of the name of Caltech’s founding president and first Nobel laureate, Robert A. Millikan, from campus buildings, assets, and honors. Rosenbaum and the Board also approved the removal of the names of Harry Chandler, Ezra S. Gosney, William B. Munro, Henry M. Robinson, and Albert B. Ruddock from campus assets and honors.

“The decision of the Board of Trustees is of seminal importance to Caltech’s future,” Rosenbaum said in a memo announcing the decision. “Renaming buildings is a symbolic act, but one that has real consequences in creating a diverse and inclusive environment. It is an act that helps define who we are and who we strive to be.”

In taking this step, the Institute fully heeds the committee’s recommendation to reckon and reconcile with the past, “publicly and unambiguously repudiat[ing] any shade of affiliation with eugenics.” The decision is a direct response to and an acknowledgement of the named individuals’ participation in the eugenics movement through affiliation with the Human Betterment Foundation (HBF), a California-based organization founded in 1928 by Ezra Gosney, which supported eugenic sterilization research and distributed propaganda in support of eugenic sterilization. Caltech’s leadership concurred with the CNR that to continue to memorialize the named individuals, without a complete accounting of who they were, is inconsistent with Caltech’s values. Millikan, Gosney, Chandler, Munro, Robinson, and Ruddock were successful professionals, civic leaders, and philanthropists and also prominent members of society who lent their stature and names to the furtherance of racist and discriminatory practices either as HBF trustees or members.