An eccentric man who spent much of his time analyzing and postulating over seemingly pointless problems. Some of Francis Galton’s more unusual published papers include; "Arithmetic by Smell", "On Making the perfect Cup of Tea", and "A Beauty Map of Pretty Girls in Great Britain".

THe science of eugenics was founded by Sir Francis Galton, who defined it as:

The youngest of seven children born into a prosperous middle-class family of Quaker faith. His father Samuel was a successful banker, and Frances, his mother, was the daughter of Erasmus Darwin, medical practitioner, natural philosopher and poet.

An English scientist he pioneered the use of statistics in genetic thought. In his first important book, Hereditary Genius (1869), Galton proposed that a system of arranged marriages between men of distinction and women of wealth would eventually produce a gifted race, but the idea never won widespread acceptance. Many people fear that a eugenics program would take away basic human rights, such as people's rights to marry whom they choose.

Born near Birmingham England and educated at King's College, London, and Trinity College , University of Cambridge He traveled to Africa in the 1840-50's and following wrote Narrative of an Explorer in Tropical South Africa (1853) and Art of Travel (1855). His interest in meteorology led him to write Meterographica (1836), the first book on modern methods of weather mapping.

A cousin of Charles Darwin Galton was one of the first to recognize how Darwin's theory of evolution was going to clash with theology. Galton became fascinated with heredity and the measurements of humans; he gathered statistics on strength, height, dimension and other characteristics of many people. Committing special attentions to fingerprinting he soon devised a way of identification by fingerprints. By calculating the correlation between pairs of attributes he displayed the basis techniques in statistical measurements. Knighted in 1909, Sir Francis Galton is known for many of his other studies; Inquiries into Human Faculty (1883), Natural Inheritance (1889), and Finger Prints, (1892).Galton's Inquiries into Human Faculty consists of some 40 articles varying in length from 2 to 30 pages, which are mostly based on scientific papers written between 1869 and 1883. The book is regarded as a summary of the author's views on the faculties of man. On all his topics, Galton has something original and interesting to say, and he says it with clarity, brevity, distinction, and modesty. Under the terms of his will, a eugenics chair was established at the University of London.

He coined the term eugenics in 1883 and continued to expound its benefits until his death on January 17, 1911.


Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "Galton, Francis," Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.

Genetics: A Survey of the Principles of Heredity. Ed. H. Bently Glass, June Shepard. 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1972.

(Not noding my homework, per se, but not originally written for E2.)

Francis Galton has been called the last of the gentleman scientists -- men who dabbled in science as a hobby rather than a profession. Galton was brilliant and, with hundreds of publications to his name, prolific, but he was also a dilettante -- his inquiries ranged from the effectiveness of prayer to the body weights of British nobles. Many of his ventures were successful: he pioneered the use of fingerprints for identification, tested Charles Darwin's less successful theories, and discovered the anticyclone. But his most notable contribution to science is a source of more infamy than fame: eugenics, the study of improving a human population by selective breeding, a cause that would later be championed by bigots and genocides.

It is understandable that Galton would have latched on to the idea that intelligence and talent are hereditary. He himself came from an eminent family -- Charles Darwin was his cousin, Erasmus Darwin his grandfather. Francis showed intelligence, even genius, from an early age; by age 4 he could multiply, tell time, and read English, Latin, and some French. For all his brilliance, however, he was never a fan of scholarship; he entered medical school at age 16, but used it mostly as a chance to systematically sample the pharmaceuticals cabinet, in alphabetical order (he stopped at C, when a dose of Croton oil made him vomit). Even the Croton oil was not as unpleasant to him as the grueling schedule, though, and when his father's death left him with a substantial inheritence, Galton was quick to be done with school for good.

After school, Galton made a name for himself as an explorer, earning a gold medal from the Royal Geographical Society (of which he would later become a fellow) for his excursions into uncharted southern Africa. In 1853, having satisfied at least some of his wanderlust, he settled down, married Louisa Butler, and gradually began dabbling in science. Despite his occasionally bizarre forays – one of his “experiments” involved sitting on a bench noting the relative attractiveness of passing women, and calculating various areas’ beauty quotients – he gradually began making substantial contributions. For instance, he was the first to use statistics to determine correlation in biology -- the phenomenon where if one variable, like arm length, varies, another one, like leg length, will vary in the same way (a person with long arms will, on average, have longer legs than a person with short arms). This concept was in many ways revolutionary, especially in Galton's own work, which often involved correlating people's intelligence with that of their ancestors or offspring.

These experiments with hereditary intelligence represented the part of his work Galton was most passionate about. He was enthusiastically interested in the budding science of genetics; one of Galton's most notable experiments involved disproving Charles Darwin's theory that hereditary traits were passed down by tiny particles called "gemmules" that were found in every part of the body. Galton believed that "eminence" – his somewhat poorly-defined term for a cocktail of intelligence, fame, talent, and money -- was one of these heritable traits. He studied England's most prominent family trees, and found that any individual's eminence was directly related to that of his parents and grandparents (though he somehow forgot to factor nepotism and the educational benefits of money into the picture). These findings, inconclusive as they would have been in modern science, led him to propose a program of eugenics, assuring that notable families would continue to produce notable children. Statistically, he reasoned, it would take many times more pairings of unremarkable people to produce as many eminent children as one pair of geniuses, so in order for a society to grow in eminence certain people must be encouraged to reproduce while others are discouraged.

Galton thwarted his own plan of selective breeding by dying childless in 1911. He left behind no “eminent” genes, but he did leave a chair in eugenics at University College, London, endowed in his will; a number of works, like his study of fingerprints, that would represent his lasting impact on the scientific world; and a brainchild, eugenics, that would come, for many, to represent the depths of ignorance.

Forrest, D.W. Francis Galton: The Life and Work of a Victorian Genius. New York: Taplinger, 1974.
Taton, Rene. "Francis Galton." Dictionary of Scientific Biography, ed. Charles Coulston Gillespie. New York: Scribner, 1990. vol. V., pp. 265-266.

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