(TIME) — Paternity testing had a long history before today’s DNA kits. The science hasn’t always matched the hype.
Over the last hundred years, the press has made paternity testing into an alluring cultural phenomenon. Here's how it happened.
The press’ fascination with the science of ancestry began long before such DNA tests were available. In the 1920s, researchers began to explore the development of genealogical tests — research that, not coincidentally, occurred in an era of burgeoning interest in eugenics and racial pseudoscience.
Researchers were particularly taken with the possibility that science could discover an unknown father. A variety of new methods emerged in these years that promised to do just that. Some were patently pseudoscientific, such as the oscillophore, a machine invented by Dr. Albert Abrams, a San Francisco doctor who purported to reveal an individual’s ancestry by measuring the electronic vibrations of their blood. Other methods had more validity but were still very rudimentary, such as the testing of parentage through inherited ABO blood types.