2. The Word “Moron” Was Coined Here

Despite the hospital’s many redeeming qualities, it was still a hospital in the early 20th century and the notions of mental illness carried different meanings. For example, patients were lumped into the same category whether they had epilepsy, cultural/ language barriers, or an actual mental handicap. Perhaps equally unfortunate was how certain patients were labeled at the hospital.

American psychologist Henry H. Goddard developed an intelligence testing program at the Ellis Island Hospital. Through this test, he could classify hospital patients based on their IQ. This was used to help keep “feebleminded” immigrants out of the United States. A “moron”— from the Greek word “moros” meaning dull— referred to people with an IQ between 51 and 70. Other politically incorrect classifications included “imbecile” (25-50 IQ) and “idiot” (0-25 IQ). Needless to say, about 80% of the immigrants studied at the hospital were deemed “feebleminded.”