Galton's Heritage

Galton Lecture delivered in London on February 17th, 1960

The Eugenics Review, July 1969, 52, 2

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LAST YEAR the world was celebrating the centenary of the publication of The Origin of Species. In comparison with his cousin, fame has passed Galton by. If Galton's work had less world‑shaking consequences than that of Darwin, it is not because he was a man of lesser ability. In a letter of 1871 Darwin wrote:

I have been speculating last night what makes a man a discoverer of undiscovered things; and a most perplexing problem it is. Many men who are very clever‑much cleverer than the dis­coverers‑never originate anything. As far as I can conjecture the art consists in habitually searching for the causes and meaning of every­thing which occurs. This implies sharp observation and requires as much knowledge as possible of the subject investigated.

    Both Darwin and Galton had this compulsive curiosity.

Variety of Scientific Interests

Galton's contributions were scattered over an immense field. Karl Pearson, and others since, have tried to find some unifying thread linking them all together. It seems to me that the only connecting thread was Galton's way­ward personality. He was the scientific dilettante at his super‑excellent best. Like Darwin, he never received any adequate scientific education. What he got was the first few years of a medical training and enough mathematics at Cambridge to attain a poll degree. He had no apprenticeship, no mentor, and never knew the discipline of a research laboratory. Throughout his scientific life he worked on his own, turning his hand first to one thing and then to another, as the fancy took him. It was his fortune that the fields to which he turned his attention were almost unexplored. It has been rightly said that the discoveries of fundamental importance are always made by amateurs, since in a new and untouched field there can be no experts. But the amateur who makes discoveries in new territory is usually an expert in some more established field. Galton was an expert in nothing. Pearson says that at the age of thirty‑two he knew more mathematics and physics than most biologists, more biology than mathematicians, and more pathology and physiology than either.

   His scientific career began at the age of twenty‑eight, when he undertook a journey of exploration in south‑west Africa, to which he was attracted by the expectation of encountering big game. He was advised to put himself in touch with the Royal Geographical Society, and was briefed on how to make observations of the needed accuracy and reliability for map‑making. He did his work with such efficiency as to receive the Society's Gold Medal and in due course to become a Fellow of the Royal Society. It is to the friendships and connections he made in this way that his subsequent scientific evolution must be traced. He developed an immense respect for his fellow‑scientists, the reverence of the amateur for the professional. He wrote:

A collection of living magnates in various branches of intellectual achievement is always a feast to my eyes; being as they generally are such massive, vigorous, capable‑looking animals.

About his own status he was modest to the point of unconsciousness. Pearson notes that Galton did not regard himself as one whose faculties gave him rank in the extreme tail of a frequency distribution.

He would have recognized such a position for half his friends, before he thought of it for himself.

    Galton had a strongly mechanical bent. Even before his African expedition, in 1849 when he was twenty‑seven, he had published a pamphlet on the telotype, a printing electric telegraph. This was the first of a long succession of mech­anical inventions, others being an instrument for sun‑signalling, a shield for the protection of riflemen, stereoscopic maps, spectacles for divers, the Galton whistle for testing the power of hearing for high notes, a wave‑engine, and many others. Remarkable as the ingenuity of these contrivances must have been, one suspects that they all had the defects of lack of profes­sionalism, since they have all suffered shipwreck on the river of time. Pearson notes that in the Galton Laboratory there was a whole series of models, "Galton's toys," the very purpose of many of them being unknown.

Composite Photography

One of Galton's devices which is of much more lasting interest and importance is his invention of composite photography. It will be remembered that, by superimposing upon one another a number of under‑exposed photographs he tried to extract from them some common quality. Inthis way he tried to demonstrate a phthisical facies from the super‑imposed photographs of tuberculous patients, and in another instance to show up the common quality in the countenances of violent criminals. He found the technique exceedingly difficult, although he tackled the mechanical problems involved with his usual untiring patience and ingenuity; and indeed the whole method was beyond solution by the technological resources of his day.

   We are now beginning to enter an era in which Galton's idea may bear fruit. As an example of a modern application I may mention the work of Dr. G. D. Dawson in the Neuro­logical Research Unit at the National Hospital. Dawson had reason to believe that in the normal subject an action potential evoked by the stimulation of a peripheral nerve could be detected by electrodes placed on the scalp over a particular part of the opposite side of the head. However the action potential would be so weak that it would be wholly obscured by adventitious electrical changes, occurring in the electrical circuits and in the scalp of the subject. In the terms of the communications engineer, the signal would be indistinguishable from the noise. However, by superimposing a large number of tracings, forty or more, he obtained a thick and fuzzy band with discernible waves, whose time of onset and whose period could be roughly measured. This result led to a further great improvement in technique, by which averaging was substituted for superim­position. A rotating switch was used to sample the signal voltage at regular intervals after each stimulus. Corresponding charges were stored in capacitators and progressively summed; and the accumulated charges could be examined continuously on a cathode ray tube, from which a photographic record could be obtained. In this way the entire scatter of the observations was eliminated and a single clean line, corresponding to mean values, could be obtained, which showed even minute features of the wave‑forms and allowed more accurate measurement.

   It is noteworthy that Galton set himself the immensely complex task of examining the human face, while Dawson was concerned with a single wavy line. Yet Dawson needed some fifty different ordinates to describe this curve. To accomplish a corresponding task with human faces one would need something like a television scanner with storage units running in number to the order of 10,000 or so. However, simpler tasks may be found lying to hand. It has been suggested that such a problem as photography of the canals of the planet Mars, where also small regularities in appearance are swamped in adventitious light variations, could be tackled along a similar line.

   There is another association between Galton and the planet Mars with an even more contem­porary echo. At the end of the last century there was a near approach between Mars and the earth, which caused some discussion on the possibility of communication with an intelligent form of life on Mars, if such there was. Con­trary to the generally expressed scientific opinions, in an article of 1896 Galton pointed out not only that the possibility existed but also what its method would be. The emission of dots and dashes could be used to build up first a system of numerals, then to characterize i, and from that to proceed to the communication of directions and movements, and finally of pictures. Once pictures were being sent and received, the problem would be solved. At the end of last year we learned that listening for interstellar signals is to begin at the Radio Astronomy Laboratory at Green Bank, Virginia. The Project OZMA, based on the work of R. W. Meadows, relies on the feasibility of the means of communication outlined by Galton, and on the fact that there is one particular wave­length, the radio emission line of neutral hydro­gen, which would have a very high probability of being chosen for long distance communication by any advanced world.


Another field, in which the stream of inspira­tion starting from Galton has seemed till lately to have dried up in sandy soil, is that of visual imagery. Here he was a pioneer out on his own, and he had to gather all the facts for him­self. By patience and system he described an immense variety and richness of visual imagery, of spontaneous origin, which he found to be especially prominent in childhood. Number­form, for instance, which he described, is the visual form in which numbers, or numerical data such as months and days of the week, may present themselves to some people in the mind's eye. Galton describes one subject who could both imagine and mentally manipulate a slide rule, so as to be able to carry out difficult computations in his mind with speed and accuracy. Into this fascinating world Galton was not able to penetrate very far; indeed, the principal conclusion of a general and compre­hensive kind which he was able to draw was that most people think of their own mental processes as being of a universal nature, to which the think­ing of all others must conform. They find it almost impossible to believe that others may have ways of thinking which are to them unknown, and who may find their ways incom­prehensible. The science of analysis of human communication has not progressed sufficiently to see just how far this principle will take us.

   For many years no further work of any importance was done on the line pioneered by Galton. One might perhaps mention attempts made, in the first place by Golla, Hutton and Grey Walter (1943), to correlate Galton's personality types with EEG characteristics­attempts which have led to no profitable results. It is a different matter, however, when the psychologist turns to the influence of imagery on imagination and creative thinking, as has been done by Professor McKellar in a fascinating book. There are references to Galton on some thirty pages scattered throughout this work; and his ideas are the starting point for a system­atic study of the appearance of imagery in normal and abnormal states of mind under experimental conditions. There is great interest in the analysis of the relations of autistic and logical thinking, and the estimation of the role played by spontaneous imagery in creativity.

   McKellar draws attention to the restricting effect of imagery on abstract thought. The image that at some times supplies a fruitful model for understanding, may at other times mislead, as has for instance been the case in the past with the concept of the luminiferous ether, and with the rival wave and corpuscular theories of the nature of light. Galton believed that a habit of suppressing mental imagery must characterize men who deal much with abstract ideas. But he maintained also that the visualizing faculty should be developed in education. We should be able to call up at will a clear, steady and complete image of anything recently examined; visualize it freely from any aspect; project its image on paper and draw an outline; and construct images from description.

   This bringing of imagery into relation with education is of interest in connection with the educational theories of Cuisenaire and Gattegno, which are beginning to be used in schools in this country and on the Continent. Cuisenaire, a mathematics master in a Belgian school, found that if he provided his children with ready‑made number‑forms, their capacity to use them to understand abstract mathematical ideas, such as the commutative law, or power and logarithms, or infinite sets, led to very rapid progress. The number‑forms supplied are exceedingly simple, and consist of sticks of wood, 1 cm. square in cross section, and from 1 to 10 cm. long, coloured so that each prime in succession starts a new colour sequence: the sticks 2, 4 and 8 cm. long belong to the red family, 3, 6 and 9 to the blue family, 5 and 10 are yellow and orange, and 7 is black. Such models are obviously very much more adaptable and convenient for mental manipulation than some of the eerie number‑forms described by Galton, which the child develops for himself out of his untutored imagination. They indeed look like things which have been dwarfed and stunted through lack of proper nourishment. There is no knowing how much value the average man might derive from his capacity for visual and auditory imagery, if it were developed by education instead of being systematically ignored.

Correlation and Variation

    The scientific work a man does, which is fully developed and exploited by others, becomes in the course of time part of the general body of knowledge. The individual stamp is lost, so that his name may hardly be remembered, and his personal contribution is relegated to a matter of historical record. This has been the case with Galton's work on meteorology, where he has the fame of having discovered and named the anticyclone, and the great merit of having been the first to construct weather maps. So also it has been with his work on finger‑prints, on twins, on anthropometry and the measurement of human variation, and in the development of the calculus of correlation. His work in any one of these fields is of an originality and a funda­mental importance which would satisfy a first­class scientist for the whole of his life‑work. To this there is not much one can add. The mathematical tool of correlation, which Galton developed single‑handed from its beginnings, is a fantastic achievement for a man who never had the advantage of any very adequate mathe­matical education. However, though the calculus of correlation has become the most powerful tool available to the psychometric psychologist, and is used as a basic instrument over a great variety of scientific fields, in conceptual import­ance it seems to me to come second to Galton's study of quantitative variation.

   When one is concerned with human attributes, the change of attitude involved in considering people as showing a characteristic to a greater or lesser degree, instead of merely having or not having it, is revolutionary. Even where the characteristic with which one is concerned is beyond the present reach of measurement, the change from the one way to the other of thinking about one's observations has the most far­reaching consequences. One may take the example of "neurosis." It used to be universal and it is still common for medical men to think of people as being either "neurotic" or "not neurotic." When one thinks in terms of more and less, "neurosis" loses its unfortunate pathological implications and comes to be seen as a mode of normal variation. A shift of this kind may be called for in the most unlikely looking places. For many scientific purposes it is more appropriate to think of maleness and femaleness as the poles of a continuous rather than a discontinuous distribution.

The Basis of Creativity

   If we want to get an impression of Galton's personality as a creative worker, we must look, not only on the greatest of his achievements but also on his least. Galton's mind, except when he was asleep, was never still. There seem to have been but few subjects which offered a problem to a lively intelligence, and practically none where an answer might be obtained by counting and figuring, which did not claim his interest. Thus in the 247 works in Blacker's definitive bibliography, there are "Statistical Inquiries into the Efficacy of Prayer," "The Average Flush of Excitement," "Free‑will, Observations and Inferences," "Measure of Fidget," "Arithmetic by Smell," "Terms of Imprisonment," "Three Generations of Lunatic Cats," "Temporary Flooring in Westminster Abbey for Ceremonial Processions," "Straw­berry Cure for Gout," "Number of Strokes of the Brush in a Picture," "Cutting a Round Cake on Scientific Principles." In this bizarrely variegated collection there are some items which are wholly ephemeral and trivial, but not many; and some, like the "Inquiries into the Efficacy of Prayer" are a delight to read.

    Galton's scientific work is characterized by the simplicity and lucidity of his thinking. His approach to a problem was a naïve one, without preconceptions, and one is invariably impressed by the luminous intelligence with which he tackled a problem. He attained his ends mainly by ingenuity, logic and abundant patience and capacity for hard work. He also showed a naïve trustfulness and courage. Though a praeter­naturally shy man, he did his own field work, applying to fellow members of learned societies for details of their private lives, and to friends and acquaintances for information about their ways of thinking and imagining. Ernest Jones, in his study of genius in the person of Freud, has said that an element in the achievement of a man of scientific genius is credulity. This may well have been true of Freud, whose ideas came to him intuitively, and who had to believe passion­ately in their truth in order to make progress. It was not true of Galton. He, too, had his sudden flashes of intuitive insight‑he names the place and time when the concept of correla­tion descended on him‑ but he relied on them relatively little. His works are characterized by self‑criticism and dispassion. He was re­markably surefooted, and seldom went seriously astray. There are, however, points where he took a false path, and some of these are im­portant. Thus he went astray on assortative mating, considering that people are attracted by their opposites up to a limiting point after which the tendency is reversed. This led to a neglect of the effect of assortative mating in the maintenance of able families. There are other instances which we shall have to notice later. Galton was secure as long as he relied on reason; it is only when he comes to the formulation of his religion and particularly eugenics conceived as a religious aim, that he steps outside the guidance of reason alone, with fateful results.

   Galton's maxim was "whenever you can, count." Pearson notes that in his day the Galton Laboratory possessed no fewer than five "registrators," small mechanisms designed to be carried in the pocket, to record a count by such means as the prick of a pin on a card, without exciting the notice of the company. While Galton was having his portrait painted he was counting the strokes of the artist's brush. At a scientific meeting when he lost interest in the theme of the speaker, he would be counting the fidgety movements of the audi­ence, and relating them to sex and age. Walking the streets of the city he recorded the per­centage of attractive, indifferent and repellent­looking women he met, with the object of forming a Beauty Map of the British Isles.

   A great deal of his incessant intellectual activity must be put down to the delight he must have felt in the use of his own powers. It suggests the restless playful activity of children, or the athletic young man turning handsprings at the side of a swimming‑pool. Yet the psy­chiatrist also receives a strong impression of a compulsive quality, of a need to count for count­ing's sake, or for the sake of engaging a mental engine that would shake and rattle without a load.

Obsessional Traits

Obsessionality was a feature of Galton's family history. According to Pearson one of his father's sisters had a triple inkstand with three coloured inks, triple penwipers and pens; every conceivable apparatus for writing, printed envelopes for her various banks and business correspondents; printed questions for her grooms, "Has the mare had her corn?' etc.; a dozen or more cash boxes elaborately arranged to receive in separate compartments each kind of coin from each type of her property . . . As many as 100 painted labels have been counted in a flower bed of hers of 12 square feet. In short, we appreciate what Francis Gallon meant when he said that the desire to classify and organize which existed in his family, he felt at times as almost a danger to himself.

   Galton's father was a wealthy banker of meticulously businesslike habits. He required his son to provide the most exact statements of all his expenses, and to account for the money allowed him down to the last penny. Galton says his mother was described to him as having been in her early years joyous and unconven­tional, but does not say that she remained so after years of marriage. It must have been from his Quaker father, and not from his mother, that he derived a weight of puritanical guilt, of whose existence one only knows from its eventual removal. The reading of The Origin of Species brought, he says, a real crisis in his life, and freed him from the constraint of his old super­stition as if it had been a nightmare. That occurred when he was about forty, and the damage was done.

   Galton was liable to nervous symptoms almost throughout his life, and twice had a breakdown. The first was at the age of twenty. In his Memories he writes:

It was during my third year at Cambridge that I broke down entirely and had to lose a term and go home. I suffered from intermittent pulse and a variety of brain symptoms of an alarming kind. A mill seemed to be working inside my head; I could not banish obsessing ideas: at times I could hardly read a book, and found it painful even to look at a printed page. Fortunately I did not suffer from sleeplessness, and my digestion failed but little. Even a brief interval of complete mental rest did me good, and it seemed as if a long dose of it might wholly restore me.

   Both Galton and Pearson attribute his illness to doing too much. Since this too much consisted in rather desultory reading for mathematical honours and a great deal of social life, the ex­planation is not very convincing. Apart from the "obsessing thoughts," there seem to have been symptoms of somatic anxiety‑palpitations and dizziness are mentioned in a letter to his father of November 1842‑and some degree of depression. Early in 1843 he wrote poems, of which two begin with the lines:

Well may we loathe this world of sin, and strain
As an imprisoned dove to flee away;


How foolish and how wicked seems the world.

   Nevertheless the condition does not ring quite like a simple anxiety state, and the depressive element could not have been severe in view of the lack of interference with appetite and sleep. His later illness, at the age of forty‑four, is described as follows:

During the whole of this interval I find from old diaries that I frequently suffered from giddiness and other maladies prejudicial to mental effort, but that I invariably became well again on com­pletely changing my habits . . The warning I received in 1866 was more emphatic and alarming than previously, and made a revision of my mode of life a matter of importance. Those who have not suffered from mental breakdown can hardly realize the incapacity it causes ... After recovery seems to others to be complete, there remains for a long time an impossibility of performing certain minor actions without pain and serious mischief... This was a frequent experience with me respecting small problems, which successively obsessed me day and night, as 1 tried in vain to think them out. These affected mere twigs, so to speak, rather than large boughs of the mental processes, but for all that most painfully. One must conclude, I think, that Gallon's trouble was a liability to painful compulsive rumination.


In his Memories, all that he has to say about his mother is confined to one short paragraph, recording nothing of her emotional relationship to him or of his feelings to her. The main feminine influence in his childhood was a much‑loved sister, older by twelve years, who spent the greater part of her life lying on her back and who devoted herself to his education. Apart from her, the dominant influence on his life was cer­tainly that of his father. Nearly all his letters as a boy and a young man are written to his father, whom he loved and who dominated him. It was his father, who pressed him on to make a career for himself; and once his father had died all plans of that kind were immediately dis­carded. This relationship possibly explains the extreme reserve with which Galton touches on the most personal of his experiences, though it is clear that his feelings were both warm and deep.

   Pearson comments ruefully on his incompre­hension of the psychology of women. When ideas came up for discussion on how women might play their part in the eugenic movement, his only notion was that they might throw open their houses for drawing‑room meetings. That women might have their own ideas about the breeding of the next generation had not occurred to him. He naïvely imagined that the abler men could have the abler women for the asking, while Pearson comments that the abler men, either by choice or necessity, do not mate with the abler women, and the latter, either by choice or neces­sity, remain to a large extent unmarried.

   Galton married in 1853, at the age of thirty­one, and enjoyed forty years of married life; yet as far as one can see, his wife had practically no influence in moulding his personality or his views. There is hardly a word about her in Pearson's biography. During their life in London she probably saw very little of him, at least alone; practically the whole of his day must have been taken up either with scientific work or with his very numerous commitments in the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Society, the Anthropological Institute, the Biritish Association, or the Observatory at Kew, etc. Both husband and wife came from large sibships, yet their marriage was childless. Pearson supposes that the lack of children must have been a grief to Galton, but notes also that he was alarmed by children and did not find the right words to say to them.

   The couple travelled a lot abroad and were also accustomed to making visits to spas under medical direction. Not only was Galton liable to nervous symptoms, but his wife also seems to have suffered from one of those nameless forms of chronic ill‑health which one finds not infre­quently in the women of Victorian times. Pearson says he was wonderfully patient with her. One is compelled to wonder whether their life together was of a kind to have much chance of producing children. Galton's biographers note that the sub­ject of sex was one which he found distressing and preferred to ignore.

   Though he must have been a man of acute sensibilities, he seems to have denied himself the pleasures of the senses. His niece, Millicent Lethbridge, presumably describing his old age, wrote:

He enjoyed his food as keenly as a child, although he was a very small eater and most abstemious in every way. He delighted in after­dinner coffee, of which he allowed himself two teaspoonfuls, and that only when I, or some other coffee‑drinker, was staying with him to set a bad example.

    She notes also that he loved the sunshine, and even on the hottest day would insist on walking on the sunny side of the street.

   Nevertheless, for his London residence he chose what must have been a gloomy house, where his work‑room looked out on a light­shaft. Though fond of travel he does not seem to have been impressed by magnificent scenery. Art, whether in colour, form or verbal expression, was no essential need for him. He was totally unmusical. He was not fond of animals, and had no comprehension and love of young things.

A Feminine Trait?

To this side of his nature one gets a clue from his photographs, which show a lower half of the face which is ill‑matched with the upper. The nose, eyes and forehead show nobility, energy and intellect. The chin is fined away and the mouth is held in a compressed and prim ex­pression. Furthermore, as it seems to me, there is a sexless or even feminine quality to the countenance, which if anything gets more marked with increasing age.

   The final point which emerges from these photographs is the remarkable extent to which he remained physically preserved into old age. There is but little sign of ageing shown in the photographs between the fifties and the eighties. This resistance to ageing was, of course, also shown mentally. Of his old age he wrote that it was a very happy time for him, provided one accepted its numerous limitations. From his studies on Hereditary Talent he concluded that "the highest minds in the highest races seem to have been those who had the longest boyhood." In his own case he did not make a beginning with the serious business of life until he was over thirty. Pearson says he was young till his death. Even between forty and fifty he was a boy who must try his powers on all things that came his way. At the age of seventy‑four he complained for the first time that his brain power was not as vigorous as formerly.

   The feminine streak was also a source of strength. He was a remarkably unaggressive man. Though often taken by his work into the fringes of controversy, for instance, in the conflict between his science of finger‑prints and the Bertillon system of personal identification by bodily measurement, he succeeded in not getting involved. As Blacker says, there are no polemical writings, and he seems to have made no personal enemies. In the closing years of his life there were acute disagreements between Karl Pearson, his scientific heir, and the direction of the Eugenics Education Society, who were the representatives of his faith for the future. Though he might have been torn in two by opposing loyalties, he dealt with the situation gently and without rancour, and largely held aloof.

The Hero‑Worshipper

    One of his most boyish and most engaging qualities was his capacity for hero‑worship. His admiration for Darwin knew no limit. When he died, Galton wrote:

I feel at times quite sickened at the loss of Charles Darwin. I owed more to him than to any other man living or dead; and I never entered his presence without feeling as a man in the presence of a beloved sovereign.

   He was particularly impressed by intellectual eminence, but he appreciated excellence in any mode of competitive endeavour. In 1864 he was turning over ideas of breeding both dogs and men for intelligence. The trouble was that even the best were, he thought, not good enough:

The general intellectual capacity of our leaders requires to be raised, and also to be differentiated. We want abler commanders, statesmen, thinkers, inventors, and artists. . . The foremost minds of the present day seem to stagger and halt under an intellectual load too heavy for them.

    Galton thought that the leaders of mankind were set apart from the rest both psychologically and biologically. Thus in his essay of 1872 on "Gregariousness in Cattle and in Men," he traced to this gregariousness "slavish aptitudes, from which the leaders of men and the heroes and prophets, are exempt." On the biological side he was of the opinion that extreme ability does not blend:

Very gifted men are usually of marked indi­viduality, and consequently of a special type. Whenever this type is a stable one, it does not blend easily, but is transmitted almost unchanged, so that specimens of very distinguished intellectual heredity frequently occur.

   On this fundamental but fallacious idea Galton's preoccupation with the "noble stirps" arose.

   The role of the average man was, he thought, a very subordinate one.

The average man is morally and intellectually an uninteresting being. The class to which he belongs is bulky and no doubt serves to help the course of social life in action. It also affords, by its inertia, a regulator that, like the fly‑wheel to the steam­engine, resists sudden and irregular changes. But the average man is of no direct help towards evolution, which appears to our dim vision to be the goal of all living existence.. . Some thorough­going democrats may look with complacency on a mob of mediocrities, but to most other persons they are the reverse of attractive. The absence of heroic gifts among them [for Galton never saw the common man in times of war] would be a heavy set off against the freedom from a corres­ponding number of very degraded forms. The general standard of thought and morals in a mob of mediocrities must necessarily be mediocre, and, what is worse, contentedly so. The lack of living men to afford lofty examples, and to educate the virtue of reverence, leaves an irremediable blank. All men would find themselves at nearly the same dead average level, each being as meanly endowed as his neighbour.

   Galton would not allow that the class of the mediocre might be leavened by men of excep­tional potentialities who never showed their capacities. He did not believe in "mute inglorious Miltons."

If a man is gifted with vast intellectual ability, eagerness to work, and power of working, I cannot comprehend how such a man should be suppressed.

    This view shows a remarkable lack of insight into his own case. From a reading of his life story one would think that it was the sheerest accident that diverted Galton himself from a life of hunt­ing and shooting. This was the life his brothers lived, and the life he led contentedly for some years, until an impulse took him into African exploration. Even after that he might have gone on as an explorer, had not his health been adversely affected.

   Of the "lower middle classes" Galton thought still worse; they might be summed up as mentally and physically litter‑scatterers. They and those still lower than them made up "the present army of ineffectives which clog progress."

   Galton's excessive admiration for heroic virtues, for the leaders of men, and for the extreme deviant generally, no doubt had its emotional roots in his relation to his father, and to such later father‑figures as Charles Darwin. It had, however, a rational basis. This was derived from his way of looking at normal variation.

   Galton never made use of the concept of the standard deviation. He thought of people who had been measured in some characteristic as being drawn out in a long line, the man with the lowest measurement to the extreme left, and the man with the highest to the extreme right. So arranged they would show the "ogive curve," which runs almost level over the middle part of its course, but dips or rises with increas­ing steepness towards either extreme. This distribution was then divided conceptually into parts equal in length, quartiles, octiles or centiles‑percentiles as we now call them. When looked at in this way, the man at the extreme right would exceed his neighbour to the left by a larger margin than that man would exceed his other neighbour. This led Galton to the mis­leading idea that there was more variation at the extremes of the distribution than about its middle. The correct view is that variability is a quality of the group as a whole, but that its effects will be more openly manifested at the extremes than near the mode.

   An example which Galton chose to illustrate his idea is certainly striking. In two years of the mathematical tripos at Cambridge, out of 17,000 marks as total, the top man scored between 7,500 and 8,000. The runner‑up was 2,000 marks behind, in the 5,500 to 6,000 class; while behind him, in the class 500 marks below there were no fewer than three men. Pearson says: "It was at this time that Galton first realized the great principle that while between men of moderate ability there is scarcely any difference, between 'illustrious' and even 'eminent' men there are extraordinary differences." At the end of his life at the age of eighty‑two he made an elegant application of this idea by calculating the proper proportions for the distribution of a sum of money between first and second prizes. Taking only 100 individuals, supposed to follow a nor­mal distribution, the interval between the fiftieth and fifty‑first is only one‑tenth of the interval between the ninety‑ninth and 100th. On this basis the intervals between the first and the second and between the second and the third prove to be as three to one, and it is in this ratio that the total prize money should be divided. From this Galton draws a moral:

Differences in ability in power to create, to discover, to rule men do not go by uniform stages. We know this by experience‑our Shakespeares, our Newtons, our Napoleons have no close compeers in the populations of their own genera­tions‑but we see a reason for the gulf which separates the genius from ourselves .

The Existence of an Elite

We must now look at Galton's ideas on the subject of an elite, since they determined the way in which he thought a eugenic policy would have to be implemented. The point I shall now maintain is that there is no class of human being which can be regarded as constituting an elite. Instead we have only individuals, who do indeed excel, but excel in a limited range of performance. To begin with, we must distinguish between the man and his achievement. Galton does not tell us that the man, who scored 2,000 more marks than his runner‑up in the mathematical Tripos, did anything very remarkable in his later career; and there is no reason to think that he did. Darwin showed more insight than Galton, when he observed that the discoverers of undiscovered things were often less clever than those who made no discoveries. There are elements of chance and will which intervene between ability on one side and achievement on the other.

   Small quantitative differences in causes may lead to large or to qualitative differences in effects. This phenomenon may be met with in intelligence testing. We may pose two intelligent subjects with a problem which the one solves in three minutes and the other in thirty. If we now give them a second and more difficult problem, it may be that the first can be expected to solve it in an hour, and the second in fifty years, that is never, within the limits of a lifetime. In a walled­in courtyard full of prisoners, it may be that the one man who can jump an inch higher than his fellows will catch a glimpse of the horizon, while the others can never see more than the sky.

   High achievement is the reward of the specialist, and his specialization has to be paid for by compensatory deficiencies. Take any expert off his home ground, and the mediocrity of the performance is painful. Indeed, if the subject of debate is minimally off‑centre, the same can often be said. Listen to one of the B.B.C.'s "Critics" discussing a visit to a picture exhibition, or to a learned judge giving his views on juvenile delinquency, or even, let us say, to a well‑known psychiatrist on the subject of human personality, and it would be pardonable to suppose that the man was clueless. To achieve his fantastic level of performance, Galton him­self had to sacrifice practically everything else. Judged solely by the standards which can be attained in the arts, humanities and sciences, even the best of us are incompetents in all senses but one‑mental cripples with a single hypertrophied organ. The mind of the specialist is a precision tool which can only show what it is capable of within its own limited range of application. The transcendent value to the com­munity of the possessor of such a mind is almost entirely social and hardly at all biological.

   Discussing the "Worth of Children," Galton took the view that the brains of the nation lay in what he called the W and X classes, i.e., in persons making up approximately one‑third of one per cent of the population. This view is conditioned by the confusion already noted between social and biological values, or between genotype and phenotype. It is probably true that the valuable innovations, new ideas, new creations, which accrue from one generation to the next are received at the hands of one in 300 of the population or less. But the genes which provide the constitutional element in variation in intelligence are distributed throughout the entire population. There are a great many more of these valuable genes among the vast hordes of those of average intelligence, or even in the lesser hordes of those of subnormal intelligence, than there are in the chromosomes of the intel­lectual aristocracy. The trouble is, of course, that in the lower ranks genes of positive effect are in dilute concentration. But if we are to ap­praise the value of a mine, we do not take account only of the nuggets of pure gold and forget the ore.

Ignorance of Mendelism

Galton's misconceptions arose because he had to do all his work without the aid of Mendelism. Thus when he supposes that, if the W and X classes were removed from a community it would be left with a dead level of mediocrity, he missed the fact that a single generation of random mating would restore the previous variability. The men of middle ability who make up the bulk of a population may not distinguish themselves by the creation of new social values; but, looked at biologically, they constitute the treasury of genetic variability and provide the raw material out of which the extreme deviants are made.

   Finally, brief notice must be taken of Galton's disdain for the "army of ineffectives which clog progress." Of course, he was right to emphasize the way in which human progress is retarded by sheer stupidity. But the drag on progress is not the stupidity of the stupid but the stupidity of the intelligent. All the really disastrous things which have happened to mankind can be laid to the account of intelligent, indeed, frequently brilliant men. For these tragedies the intellectual proletariat are blameless.

   Galton thought that eugenic policies could be furthered by encouraging the fertility of families in which eminent men had been known to occur. This was a consequence of the mode of research he had to follow in studying hereditary genius, and of the limited range of results which this approach could provide. His ignorance of Mendelism led to an important misconception of the biological nature of the family. He saw that there might be resemblances between a man and one of his grandfathers which were not shown with the intervening parent. To account for this, he derived one‑quarter of the hereditary equipment of an individual from each of his two parents, one‑sixteenth part from each of his grandparents, and so on, leading to a series whose sum is unity. The model is misleading. All of a man's genes come from one or other of his parents, and there is no remainder of genetic variability to be allocated elsewhere. The view that a man might base a claim for differential treatment on close relationship to an eminent man alone is quite unbiological. To take an example, we have no reason to suppose that a man of average intelligence will sire more intelligent children if he is the son of parents of superior intelligence than if his parents were as average as himself. The biological worth of an individual depends on his individual consti­tution, regardless of what that of other members of his family may be.

Ends and Means

This argument leads to the view that the means by which Galton proposed that eugenic ends should be attained are not the right ones. We have to abandon, I think, the whole of his ideas about diplomas of eugenic worth, the encourage­ment of fertility in eminent families and imposed restrictions on the fertility of the socially incom­petent. They all suffer from a fatal defect, that of dividing humanity against itself. All mankind is in one boat together, and those of us who in some specified field of activity are rather less feebleminded than the average will have1 do what we can for those who are rather more so.

   However, if we abandon the means proposed by Galton, does it follow that we should abandon his ends? I do not think it does. To be sure, we must not blink the fact that the whole complex of ideas comprised under the heading of eugenics arouses strong opposition, not least among biologists. During his lifetime Galton had to suffer the disappointment of failing to arouse an echo among his scientific colleagues. He pre­sented his ideas in the second Huxley lecture of the Anthropological Institute, "but the seed fell on barren soil," and the address was never published in their journal. Galton's critics pointed to the effects of the environment, as in the slums; and the resistance that any normal man would offer to interference with marriage. It was said that "at present the care for future man, the love and respect of the race, are quite beyond the pale of the morals of even the best." Karl Pearson stigmatized these ideas as unsup­ported by statistics, and half‑baked. We are likely to rate them higher now, and the statistics are beginning to come in. Yet is it still true that even the best can take no care for the genetical future of mankind? I do not think that there is any biologist, even among those who shun this Society, who would not agree that care for this aspect of our racial future should occupy us. The point on which they would insist is that social efforts, which are not supported by the weight of the evidence and by a consensus of informed opinion, should be held in reserve.

   In some respects I think that our critics go too far. It is indeed true that all wild populations carry great numbers of genes of deleterious effect, and yet maintain their vitality. It is true that mankind can safely foster the infirm, and indeed permit their reproduction, without alarm for the future of the race. The variability of a race is its source of strength, and variability is the contribution of the heterozygote. But we can make a fetish of the heterozygote just as Galton made a fetish of the extreme deviant. We must have some sense of proportion. How far would the balance of heterozygote and homo­zygote be shifted by, say, a raising of the mean intelligence by half a standard deviation? Surely to a negligible extent; yet such a rise would transform our society. To give priority to the biological advantages of heterosis is to value reproductive vigour higher than vigour of the mind. As matters stand we are embarrassingly rich in the one and poor in the other. Stupidity is an enslavement of the spirit of man. If for biological reasons it is unsafe to contend against it, then those are risks we shall have to take. The biologists must tell us how to do it, and not that it shouldn't be done.

   Perhaps it might be possible to find, entirely outside the field of genetics, principles which would have a directive influence on reproduction, which would not be dysgenic in their effect, and which might receive almost universal assent. This century is marked by increasing concern for the welfare of children. All that we might ask is that every child should be given a fair chance in life. To be an unwelcome guest in the home into which it is born does not constitute a fair start; and people who for whatever reason are unwilling to be parents should be provided with foolproof methods of avoiding conception. Furthermore if there is any accident, whether it is ill‑health, or poverty, or unhappiness, which for a time would make it difficult for prospective parents to give their child the background and the upbringing it needs, they should for that time think well before they saddle a new human being with an unfair handicap. With this proviso we might safely forget criteria of eugenic worth.



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