I was surprised to see that On the construction of balanced incomplete block designs by Raj Chandra Bose was published (in 1939) in a journal named Annals of Eugenics (see here) (published between 1925 and 1954).

I double checked and it seems that the journal was indeed focused on eugenics and the article does not relate to eugenics or genetics in any way. So why would a mathematician decide to publish in such a journal and why was the article accepted?

It appears that there are also other mathematics articles published in the same journal.

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    $\begingroup$ Various statisticians worked on block designs in the early days, since they were relevant to design of experiments, eg agricultural. $\endgroup$ May 8 '19 at 10:40
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    $\begingroup$ Just looking at the same issue of this journal, there's another mathematical paper ("solution to a geometrical problem in probability") not obviously related to the title of the journal, and also a paper ("equilibrium between mutation and random extinction") with a clear applied mathematics contents, and seems (at first sight) to fit in "evolutionary biology". I'm not able here to summarize the scope of this journal, but at least this does not seem like an isolated case. A better answer could be made if the editorial board at that time (including affiliations) were made available. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    May 8 '19 at 10:44
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    $\begingroup$ This is just a hypothesis, but mathematicians, depending on the context, can have pressure to produce "useful" mathematics. In practice, this can lead some to publish quite theoretical papers in journals that claim themselves as clearly applied (but can be happy to have such theoretical papers). $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    May 8 '19 at 10:52
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    $\begingroup$ Future generations may similarly ask "How come that mathematicians of late 20 century were awarded Nobel prizes in economy?" $\endgroup$ May 8 '19 at 11:52

Eugenics and agriculture were two areas of application that motivated much of early 20th century statistics. The paper was a continuation of research on the use of Latin squares in experimental design for those areas. It says so explicitly on the second page:

It was, however, only about [1925] that the importance of combinatorial problems, for the proper designing of biological experiments, began to be understood, mainly through the work of Prof. R. A. Fisher and his associates.

At the time, Fisher was head of the Department of Eugenics at University College London.

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe more relevantly, Fisher was the lead editor of the Annals of Eugenics at the time. See also here for more history. $\endgroup$
    – user326188
    May 8 '19 at 11:01

One should note that in the pre-WWII period eugenics was not the dirty word that it became later. Actually it was a popular notion across the world, including in countries like the United States. The division of humanity into races and the idea that humanity could (and should) be improved by selective breeding was mainstream. Statistics was one of the enabling scientific disciplines and few mathematicians/statisticians of the time would have had moral qualms about publishing in the Annals of Eugenics.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure about "few... would have had morel qualms...". I guess there was a significant opposition to eugenics based on religious grounds (e.g. from the Catholic Church). $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    May 8 '19 at 12:39
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    $\begingroup$ Fisher was Catholic. $\endgroup$ May 8 '19 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ Sure but this does not contradict what I said. Catholicism is not a unified way of thinking. (And "Catholic Church" rather means from Vatican than from catholics individually.) Nevertheless what I found so far about this opposition was quite vague and I'm curious to learn more about it. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    May 8 '19 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ The reasons eugenics is seen as a dirty word—a rather euphemistic way to put it—is directly tied to its historic popularity in the US and elsewhere. In particular, American eugenicists were an inspiration to the nazis. It does a disservice to history to elide these connections and present the history of eugenics as disconnected from the atrocities that led it to fall out of favor. $\endgroup$ May 8 '19 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ @ycor G.K. Chesteron's "Eugenics and other Evils" was published in 1922 the same year he was received into the Catholic Church. It doesn't contain Catholic doctrine as such, but a synthesis of social teaching (and common sense) against the Eugenicist wave engulfing England pre-WWII. $\endgroup$ May 8 '19 at 18:02

The zbMATH journal profile https://zbmath.org/serials/?q=se%3A00009697 has 137 reviews for documents from this journal indexed in old Jahrbuch and Zentralblatt issues, of overall 49 mathematicians. Apart from Fisher's own contributions, Bose's paper on block designs Bose, R. C., On the construction of balanced incomplete block designs, Ann. Eugenics 9, 353-399 (1939). ZBL0023.00102. mentioned in the question might have been the most influential (at least, it is the one most frequently cited in subsequent reviews).


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