Francis Galton (1822-1911)

"Every long-established race has necessarily its peculiar fitness for the conditions under which it has lived, owing to the sure operation of Darwin's law of natural selection." (1869)

English social scientist, an outspoken hereditarian and selectionist and (alone with his disciple Karl Pearson) a founder of biometrics. Galton conducted extensive statistical studies of heredity in humans, including the first major twin study (1883). A virulent racist, he popularized the phrase "nature and nurture" from 1874 onward specifically so he could downplay the latter. He also coined the term "eugenics" (1883) and essentially founded the eugenics movement with arguments going back to 1865, although his ideas did not gain wide acceptance until the turn of the century, spurred on by the rediscovery of Mendel's laws of inheritance. A first cousin of Darwin and a witness of the famous Huxley-Wilberforce debate of 1860, he was a staunch supporter of natural selection even at its lowest, late 19th-century ebb. Ironically, he argued that selection on minor variations was too weak to produce long-term evolutionary changes, which instead were due to occasional saltations. Despite having read Galton's 1869 book, Darwin himself still took a dim view of the influence of heredity on human behavior in his The Descent of Man (1871). As a member of Murchison's Royal Geographical Society, Galton led a major expedition to south-central Africa in the 1850's. He became general secretary of the RGS in 1857, and also was a Fellow of the Royal Society. He also conducted research in meteorology. In his will, Galton endowed a chair called the Foundation Professor of Eugenics at the University of London specifically so Pearson could fill it.


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