Around the turn of the century
, especially in Anglo-American
intellectual communities, this term was used with near religious reverence by some in the scientific
discussion of eugenics
--which was, at the time, not so much a "Sieg Heil! Burn the Darkies
!" topic as a rather misinformed extension of Darwinist
theory, only really colored with racism average to the upper-middle class
of the period (which was, still, significant by modern standards).
The human protoplasm was the term for man's genetic pool
, in essence the sum of all his genes
for better and worse. Eugenic theory expressed the urge to improve the protoplasm by either reducing negative populational factors ("negative eugenics", the source of most of the violently racist aspects of the theory) or by ensuring that the best genotypes mate with one another ("positive eugenics", as it was called). Because of the intense, perhaps fanatical dedication of some of its followers to the study, the term was given everything but holy significance in writings produced between about 1890 and 1930, including those of Sir Francis Galton
, Karl Pearson
and the like.