Skip to main content
Select Source:

Galton, Francis

Galton, Francis

WORKS BY GALTON

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Francis Galton was born in 1822 and died in 1911. He was educated successively at home, at a dame school, at Boulogne, and at Kenilworth. In 1835, at the age of 13, he entered King Edward’s School at Birmingham, where he stayed for two years. He spent two years as a medical student, the first at the General Hospital, Birmingham and the second at King’s College, London. In 1840 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, as a mathematics student, but was content to take a poll degree in 1843, when his health broke down.

Galton’s father, Samuel Tertius Galton, was a banker. His mother, Violetta Darwin, was the daughter of Erasmus Darwin by his second wife. One of Erasmus Darwin’s grandsons through his first wife was Charles Robert Darwin; there was a certain physical resemblance between the two cousins. His mental development is interesting: he is credibly reported to have read a simple book before he reached the age of three, and his restless ingenuity with regard to machinery dates from his early youth. He did not enjoy school, however, nor did he find the profession of medicine, which was chosen for him, congenial. In spite of his interest in mechanics and mathematics, he was not successful in his Cambridge studies.

When his father died in 1844, Galton immediately forsook any idea of continuing his medical career. He found himself the possessor of a more than adequate income and proceeded to spend his time and energy “hunting with a set chiefly noteworthy for their extravagance and recklessness …the strange thing [being] that it [shooting] seemed to absorb his whole nature, and to be done not for the sake of the experience, but in the pure pursuit of occupation” (Pearson 1914-1930, vol. 1, pp. 208-209).

It was after these fallow years, as Pearson called them, that Galton carried out the explorations for which he was later awarded the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1853. Even before going to Cambridge, Galton had taken an extended trip down the Danube and on to Smyrna, which had perhaps awakened the young man to the delights of foreign scenes and strange peoples. After his father’s death he set off again for Egypt, Khartoum, and Syria, but he “was still touring for the boyish fun of movement and of new scenes. He had not yet thoughts of the language, habits, or archaeology of the people he mingled with” (ibid., p. 205). It was not until after four years of idleness in England that he set out on a trip to tropical Africa, the results of which showed that he had come to terms with life and with himself.

In 1850 Galton set off for the Cape and spent two years upcountry exploring from Walvis Bay to Lake Ngami, territory of which little was known. He composed 15 brief laws for the Hottentot chiefs who governed the Damaras of the plain and compiled a rudimentary dictionary for the English who wished to use the local tongue. He returned to England early in 1852 and read a paper to the Royal Geographical Society, which awarded him its gold medal the following year. This award was followed in 1854 by a silver medal from the French Geographical Society. Early in 1853 he met Louisa Butler and married her in August. After an extended honeymoon tour of Europe, punctuated by visits to England, the Galtons finally settled in London, and in 1855 Galton really began to work.

Early publications . As might be anticipated, Galton’s first publication was on exploration, and in 1855 The Art of Travel was published. There were signs that his scientific curiosity was developing in new directions, since in Vacation Tourists and Notes of Travel (1861–1864), which he meant to be an annual magazine, there is a description of the eclipse of the sun in 1860, with a drawing of the curved rays of the corona that he had observed. Galton’s first piece of fruitful research was on the weather. He started to plot wind and pressure maps and noted, from very scanty data, that centers of high pressure are associated with clockwise directions of winds around the calm center. He coined the name “anticyclone” for such systems in 1863. Several other papers followed, in which he was clearly feeling his way toward the concepts of correlation and regression.

He tried to determine a linear prediction formula for the velocity of the wind, given the pressure, temperature, and humidity. He did not succeed, possibly because of his failure to realize that the prediction formula for pressure from velocity was not the same as the prediction formula for velocity from pressure. The realization that there are two regression lines was still in the future, as was the concept of correlation. In 1870 he read a paper at the British Association entitled “Barometric Predictions of Weather,” in which he was fumbling toward a multiple regression, trying to predict the wind from pressure, temperature, and humidity. He failed in his objective at the time, but he posed the problem for others who were to succeed.

Intellectual influences . In assessing the intellectual influences on Galton, continuing uncertainty exists as to the extent of Quetelet’s influence. Pearson tended to minimize the significance of Quetelet for Galton; he wrote, “I am very doubtful how far [Galton] owed much to a close reading of the great Belgian statistician” (Pearson 1914-1930, vol. 2, p. 12), and he placed perhaps undue weight on the fact that Galton possessed no copy of Quetelet’s Letters …on the Theory of Probabilities (1846). Pearson further remarked that Galton “was never a great student of other men’s writings: he was never an accumulator like his cousin Charles Darwin” (Pearson 1914-1930, vol. 1, p. 209). Now Pearson was closer to Galton’s time and actually knew him, so that some weight must be given to his opinions. Nevertheless, Pearson would appear to have underestimated the influence of Quetelet; he himself pointed out that Galton’s work seemed to flow naturally out of that of Quetelet. Further, Galton’s obsession with the normal curve of error which, to a certain extent, has unduly influenced the development of statistical method, can only have stemmed from Quetelet. One of Quetelet’s great achievements was to consider all human experience as ultimately capable of being described numerically, which was fundamentally Galton’s attitude also.

The other great influence on Galton during the period in which he was establishing himself as a research worker affected the whole of the scientific world in the second half of the nineteenth century—the publication in 1859 of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. The effect of this work on Galton was not immediately apparent in his writings, but there can be no doubt that the book was responsible for transforming him from a geographer into an anthropologist and eugenist. He began with the article “Hereditary Talent and Character” in 1865 and proceeded through Hereditary Genius (1869); English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture (1874); Inquiries Into Human Faculty (1883); and Natural Inheritance (1889), by which time he was 67 years of age. As Pearson said, “We see that his researches in heredity, in anthropometry, in psychometry and statistics, were not independent studies; they were all auxiliary to his main object, the improvement in the race of man.”

Application of statistics . In Hereditary Genius, Galton claimed that his discussion of heredity was the “first to treat the subject in a statistical manner” ([1869] 1952, p. vi). He clearly owed much to Quetelet and paralleled Quetelet’s use of the normal curve for anthropometric measurements by using it to grade intellectual ability. He was quite explicit about this: “The law is an exceedingly general one. M. Quetelet, the Astronomer-Royal of Belgium, and the greatest authority on vital and social statistics, has largely used it in his inquiries. He has also constructed numerical tables, by which the necessary calculations can be easily made, whenever it is desired to have recourse to the law” (ibid., p. 23).

Galton supplemented Quetelet’s tables by a short table of the abscissas of the unit normal curve corresponding to percentiles of area (1889). He examined the abilities of the kin of persons who had achieved eminence of some kind—judges, generals, scientists, statesmen, painters, poets, and clerics. He was concerned with distinguishing between general ability and special ability and regarded each individual personality as a combination of natural ability and the advantages accruing from early environment, i.e., nature and nurture.

This idea of nature and nurture recurs in his writings. Thus we find in English Men of Science (1874), “It is, I believe, owing to the favourable conditions of their early training that an unusually large proportion of the sons of the most gifted men of science become distinguished in the same career. They have been nurtured in an atmosphere of free enquiry….” The thesis is that heredity tends to produce eminence in some area and that environment tends to be the deciding factor in specifying what this area shall be. Galton tried to go beyond this in Inquiries Into Human Faculty and Its Development (1883), the book that possibly holds most interest for students of the history of psychology, in which he discussed preliminary results that he had obtained in the psychometric field.

In 1876, at the exhibition of scientific instruments at South Kensington, Galton exhibited his “Whistles for Determining the Upper Limits of Audible Sounds in Different Persons.” Both before and after this time he was active in proposing tests for the measurement of muscular sensitivity by weight discrimination, for the perception of differences of tint, for reaction time, for acuteness of hearing, for keenness of vision and judgment of length by the eye, and for the senses of smell and touch. In an attempt to describe the skewed distributions that often resulted from the application of his tests, Galton hypothesized that in some frequency distributions, such as, for example, judgment of length, the geometric mean, rather than the arithmetic mean, is the best “medium” for the distribution, and he wrote a paper on “The Geometric Mean in Vital and Social Statistics” (1879). As usual the mathematical conceptualization was beyond him, and he took the problem to Sir Donald Macalister, who derived what is now known as the log-normal distribution.

At this stage of his work, he was associated with the American psychologist James McKeen Cattell, who on his return to the University of Pennsylvania (and later at Columbia University), began to teach statistical psychology, giving his first course in 1887. Through Cattell, Galton’s ideas and experiments exerted possibly the greatest single influence upon American psychology during the last years of the nineteenth century.

From the statistical point of view, Natural Inheritance is probably the most important of Galton’s writings. As can be seen from his earlier works, the ideas in it had been fermenting in his mind for some time, but it was their expression in Natural Inheritance that excited the interest of those whom today we might call the practitioners of applied mathematics. Again he was influenced by the fact that Quetelet was using the normal curve to describe anthropometric data and by the interest in the problems of inheritance aroused in him by The Origin of Species.

He began the book with a summary of those properties of the normal curve that appealed to him. He had previously suggested representing a frequency distribution by using grades or percentiles, and he elaborated on this suggestion here, pointing out that the normal distribution is completely determined from a knowledge of the median and one other quantile. Galton had observed that many measured characteristics can be closely described by a normal curve. He used the “quincunx,” first shown in print with the publication of his lecture “Typical Laws of Heredity,” delivered at the Royal Institution (1877), to illustrate the build-up of the normal curve: He had noticed that a normal curve is reproduced by lead shot falling vertically through a harrow of pins and he tried to explain the stability of measured characteristics by this mechanical device. In this paper he had almost reached the concepts of both regression and correlation but must have felt the need for further thought, since it was at this time that he began to collect data bearing on inheritance in man. Galton published nothing further on heredity for eight years. The foundation of his ideas on regression and correlation did not perhaps become clear to him until a short time before the publication of Natural Inheritance.

The regression line arose naturally out of measurements of the sizes of the seeds of mother and daughter sweet pea plants. The sizes of the seeds of daughter plants appeared to “revert” to the mean (the word “revert” was soon replaced by “regress”). This inspired him to look at a bivariate frequency table of the heights of fathers and sons, in which he found a regression to “mediocrity.” The arguments he used became familiar ones with the analysis of variance put forward by R. A. Fisher some forty to fifty years later. Suppose, Galton said, that we want to predict the height of brother A, given the height of brother B. We take, therefore, all the individuals who have heights the same as B and form a collection of the heights of all of their brothers. These brothers as a group Galton called a cofraternity, and he proceeded to discuss the variation in height of all individuals about the grand mean, the variation of the cofraternity means about the grand mean, and the variation of the individuals of the cofraternities about their respective cofraternity means. This splitting up of variation had been done previously by Lexis in Germany and Dormoy in France, but Galton was possibly the first to carry out this type of analysis with the idea of assigning the variation.

While studying the bivariate frequency table of heights of fathers and sons, Galton was struck by the observation that the contours of equal frequency in the table were similar and similarly situated ellipses. He also found the lines that fitted the medians of the arrays (possibly drawing them by eye) and the slopes of these lines eventually became his regression coefficients. This early work, as is inevitable with a pioneering effort, is confused and difficult to evaluate, not least because Galton himself was not explicit. When, however, he had determined that he had what would now be termed linearity of regression and homoscedasticity in the arrays of the table, his mathematical powers were not sufficient to enable him to form a mathematical model for his surface, and he took the problem to Hamilton Dickson, a Cambridge mathematician. Dickson’s mathematical formulation was published in an appendix to Galton’s paper “Family Likeness in Stature,” presented to the Royal Society in 1886. Galton was troubled by the fact that the slope of the regression line depends on the variability of the margins, and this concern led to his search for a unit-free measure of association.

Some time earlier, in 1882, Alphonse Bertillon had put forward a scheme for classifying criminals according to 12 physical measurements that was adopted by the prefecture of police in Paris. Galton became interested in this scheme and pondered for some time over which measurements would be the most descriptive—that is, which would discriminate one man most effectively from his fellows. It was from these considerations that he was led to the realization that some measurements might be so highly correlated with other measurements as to be useless for the prescribed purposes and finally to the necessity for describing how any two measurements are related. The slope of the regression line is not adequate for this, since it depends on both the scales of measurement and the choice of dependent variables. However, the regression line fitted between the variables that Galton used (1888) after dividing the heights (reduced by their median) by a measure of their variability (their semi-interquartile range) and similarly dealing with forearm length provides a unit-free measure of association. Given the problem and 65 years of subsequent statistical development, the correlation coefficient may now appear to have been inevitable. There can be no question, however, that at the time at which Galton wrote, 1888-1889, the production of a measure of association that was independent of location and scale was an immense contribution to statistical methodology.

The Bertillon system of measurement also started Galton wondering about the whole procedure of personal identification. In the paper for the Royal Institution in which he discussed bertillonage, he also drew incidental attention to fingerprints. In his book Finger Prints (1892), he referred to the work of Jan Purkinje, Kollman, William Herschel, and Henry Faulds, who had preceded him in this study, but it is clear that at the time he wrote little was known. As he himself said:

It became gradually clear that three facts had to be established before it would be possible to advocate the use of finger prints for criminal or other investigations. First it must be proved, not assumed, that the pattern of a finger print is constant throughout life. Secondly that the variety of patterns is really very great. Thirdly, that they admit of being so classified, or lexiconised, that when a set of them is submitted to an expert, it would be possible for him to tell, by reference to a suitable dictionary or its equivalent, whether a similar set had already been registered. These things I did, but they required much labor.

As a result of Galton’s book and his evidence to a committee set up by the Home Office in 1893, a fingerprint department was established, the forerunner of many such throughout the world. Galton himself, as might be expected from his previous work and interest, turned to studying the inheritance of fingerprints, a study which was carried on for many years in the laboratory that he founded and that was named after him.

Eugenics . The term “eugenics” was introduced by Galton in his book Inquiries Into Human Faculty (1883) and soon won general acceptance. The study of human inheritance and the possibility of improving human stock were undoubtedly linked in his mind, as his public lectures and papers witness. He did more than lecture, however. In 1904 he founded a research fellowship in national eugenics at the University of London which was to develop in a few years into the Galton Laboratory of National Eugenics, with Karl Pearson as its first director. Pearson was succeeded by R. A. Fisher, and the now vast complex of statistical theory and method developed there thus owes its origin to Galton.

It was inevitable that Galton’s work should attract the interest of young men able in the mathematical and in the biological fields, and the late 1880s saw Karl Pearson, and W. F. R. Weldon— the one a professor of applied mathematics and the other a professor of zoology and both at University College, London—working in the field of “biometry,” i.e., the application of mathematics to problems of biological inheritance. Galton himself said, “The primary object of Biometry is to afford material that shall be exact enough for the discovery of incipient changes in evolution which are too small to be otherwise apparent.” Pearson and Weldon met difficulties in their attempts to publish papers relating to biometry in existing journals and determined to start their own. A guarantee was required. Galton, on being asked to help, not only guaranteed the whole amount but followed it up with an additional gift that enabled his admirers to go their way in freedom; the journal Biometrika, the first to be devoted to both the theory and practice of statistics, was established on a firm footing. In the last decade of his life, Galton played the part of counselor and adviser to the younger men, but he still worked away at his own problems, as his continued output of letters and papers indicates.

During his last years many honors came his way. He had been elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1856, receiving a gold medal in 1886, the Darwin medal in 1902, and the much-prized Copley medal in 1910, the year before his death. He was awarded the Huxley medal by the Anthropological Institute in 1901 and the Darwin-Wallace medal by the Linnean Society in 1908. He received honorary degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge universities and became an honorary fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, his old college, in 1902. The citation for the Darwin medal said, in part, “It may safely be declared that no one living has contributed more definitely to the progress of evolutionary study, whether by actual discovery or by the fruitful direction of thought, than Mr. Galton.” Mr. Galton’s private comment was, typically, “Well, I am very pleased except that I stand in the way of younger men” (quoted in Pearson 1914-1930, vol. 3A, p. 237).

F. N. David

[For the historical context of Galton’s work, see the biographies ofDarwinandQuetelet. For discussion of the subsequent development of Galton’s ideas, seeEeugenics; Linear Hypothesis, article onRegression; Multivariate Analysis, articles OnCorrelation; and the biographies ofCattell; Fisher, R. A.; Pearson.]

WORKS BY GALTON

(1855) 1856 The Art of Travel: Or, Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries. 2d ed., rev. & enl. London: Murray.

1861-1864 Galton, Francis (editor) Vacation Tourists and Notes of Travel in 1860 [1861, 1862-1863]. London: Macmillan.

1863 Meteorographica: Or, Methods of Mapping the Weather. London: Macmillan.

1865 Hereditary Talent and Character. Macmillan’s Magazine 12:157-166, 318–327.

(1869) 1952 Hereditary Genius: An Inquiry Into Its Laws and Consequences. New York: Horizon Press. → A paperback edition was published in 1962 by World.

1870 Barometric Predictions of Weather. British Association for the Advancement of Science, Report 40 [2]: 31–33.

1874 English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture. London: Macmillan.

1876 Whistles for Determining the Upper Limits of Audible Sounds in Different Persons. Page 61 in South Kensington Museum, London, Conferences Held in Connection With the Special Loan Collection of Scientific Apparatus, 1876. Volume 2: Physics and Mechanics. London: Chapman.

(1877) 1879 Typical Laws of Heredity. Royal Institution of Great Britain, Proceedings 8:282–301. → First published in Volume 15 of Nature.

1879 The Geometric Mean in Vital and Social Statistics. Royal Society of London, Proceedings 29:365–367.

(1883) 1952 Inquiries Into Human Faculty and Its Development. London: Cassell.

1886 Family Likeness in Stature. Royal Society of London, Proceedings 40:42–63. → Supplemented with an appendix by J. D. Hamilton Dickson on pages 63–72.

1888 Co-relations and Their Measurement, Chiefly From Anthropomorphic Data. Royal Society of London, Proceedings 45:135–145.

1889 Natural Inheritance. London and New York: Macmillan.

1892 Finger Prints. London and New York: Macmillan.

1908 Memories of My Life. London: Methuen.

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Burt, Cyril1962 Francis Galton and His Contributions to Psychology. British Journal of Statistical Psychology 15:1–49.

Darwin, George H. (1912) 1939 Sir Francis Galton. Volume 2, pages 70—73 in Dictionary of National Biography: Second Supplement. Oxford Univ. Press.

Newman, James R. 1956 Commentary on Sir Francis Galton. Volume 2, pages 1167-1172 in James R. Newman (editor), The World of Mathematics: A Small Library of the Literature of Mathematics From A’h-mose the Scribe to Albert Einstein. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Pearson, Karl 1914-1930 The Life, Letters and Labours of Francis Galton. 3 vols. Cambridge Univ. Press. → Includes a comprehensive bibliography of Galton’s works.

Quetelet, Adolphe (1846) 1849 Letters Addressed to H. R. H. the Grand Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, on the Theory of Probabilities, as Applied to the Moral and Political Sciences. London: Layton. → First published in French.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Galton, Francis." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Galton, Francis." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/galton-francis

"Galton, Francis." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/galton-francis

Galton, Francis

Galton, Francis

(b. Birmingham, England, 16 February 1822; d. Haslemere, Surrey. England 17 January 1911)

statistics, anthropometry, experimental psychology, heredity.

Galton’s paternal ancestors were bankers and gunsmiths, of the Quaker faith, and long-lived. His mother was Erasmus Darwin’s daughter, and thus he was Charles Darwin’s cousin. Galton’s intellectual precocity has become a textbook item, and Lewis Terman estimated his IQ to have been of the order of 200. His education, though, was desultory, its formal peaks being a few mathematics courses at Cambridge (he took a pass degree) and some unfinished medical studies in London. He quit the latter at the age of twenty-two when his father died, leaving him a fortune. He then traveled. Journeying through virtually unknown parts of southwestern Africa in 1850-1852, Galton acquired fame as an intrepid explorer. His immediate reward was a gold medal from the Geographical Society, and his later reports led to election as a fellow of the Royal Society in 1860. In 1853 he married, and in 1857 he settled into a quiet London home, where he remained, except for occasional European vacations, until his death over half a century later. Galton was knighted in 1909. He died childless.

Galton was perhaps the last of a now extinct breed— the gentleman scientist. He never held any academic or professional post, and most of his experiments were done at home or while traveling, or were farmed out to friends. He was not a great reader, and his small personal library was said to consist mainly of autographed copies of fellow scientists’ books. He composed no magnum opus, but he kept up a rich flow of original ideas. An endless curiosity about the phenomena of nature and mankind was nicely coupled with mechanical ingenuity and inventiveness. Secure and contented in the employment of his wideranging talents, Galton was an unusually equable person. Anger and polemic were alien to him. In his later years he was fortunate in having the ebullient Karl Pearson as champion and extender of his ideas. Pearson subsequently became the first holder of the chair of eugenics at University Colleges, London, that Galton had endowed in his will.

Galton’s earliest notable researches were metorologic, and it was he who first recognized and named the anticyclone.

Foremost in Galton’s life was a belief that virtually anything is quantifiable. Some of his exercises in this direction are now merely amusing— a solemn assessment of womanly beauty on a pocket scale, a study of the body weights of three generations of British peers, and a statistical inquiry into the efficacy of prayer are examples—but there can be little doubt that his general attitude was salutary in its day. Moreover, against the trivia have to be set such good things as his developing Quetelet’s observation that certain measurable human characteristics are distributed like the error function. Galton initiated an important reversal of outlook on biological and psychological variation, previously regarded as an uninteresting nuisance. In his own words: “The Primary objects of the Gaussian Law of Errors were exactly opposed, in one sense, to those to which I applied them. They were to get rid of, or to provide a just allowance for, errors. But these errors or deviations were the very things I wanted to preserve and know about.” In psychology Galton sowed the seeds of mental testing, of measuring sensory acuity, and of scaling and typing. In statistics he originated the concepts of regression and correlation.

Galton’s best-known work was on the inheritance of talent—scholarly, artistic, and athletic— raw data being the records of notable families. He found strong evidence of inheritance. Upholders of the rival nurture-not-nature theory attacked the work, on the ground that the children of gifted and successful parents are environmentally favored; but even when allowance was made for this truth, Galton’s contention could not be wholly denied. One outcome of the investigation was a conviction in many people’s minds—and particularly deeply in Galton’s own mind—that a eugenic program to foster talent and healthiness and to suppress stupidity and sickliness was a sine qua non in any society that wished to maintain, let alone promote, its quality and status. (Galton coined the world “eugenics” in 1883).

Galton’s views on genetics are historically curious. Influenced by Darwin’s belief that inheritance is conditioned by a blending mechanism, Galton propounded his law of ancestral heredity, which set the average contribution of each parent at 1/4, of each grandparent at 1/16, and so forth (the sum, over all ancestors of both parents, being asymptotic to unity). Karl Pearson and his colleagues pursued the notion in a series of sophisticated researchers, but Galton"s law received withering criticisms after the rediscovery, in 1900, of Mendel’s work on particulate inheritance. Yet Galton had himself toyed with the notion of particulate inheritance, and in a remarkable correspondence with Darwin in 1875 he sketched the essence of the theory and even discussed something very like what we now know as genotypes and phenotypes under the names “latent” and “patent” characteristics. He did not press these views, perhaps because of the strong climate of opinion in favour of blending inheritance at that time.

Galton’s establishment of fingerprinting as an easy and almost infallible means of human identification transformed a difficult subject, and his taxonomy of prints is basically that used today. He was disappointed, however, to find no familial, racial, moral, or intellectual subgroupings in the collections he examined.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I. Orignal Works. Galton wrote sixteen books and more than 200 papers. Of the books, recent printings are Herediary Genius (London, 1869; 3rd ed., 1950); Art of Travel (5th ed., London, 1872; repr. Harrisburg, Pa., 1971); and Finger Prints (London, 1893; facs., New York, 1965). An unpublished utopian book, “The Eugenic College of Kantsaywhere,” written toward the end of his life, is excerpted in Karl Pearson’s biography (see below). His autobiography, Memories of My Life (London, 1908), is worth reading. The best listing of Galton’s publications is appended to Blacker’s book (see below).

II. Secondary Liteature. Immediately after Galton’s death his friend Karl Pearson started a biography that was to become one of the most elaborate and comprehensive works of its kind in this century: The Life, Letters and Labours of Francis Galton, 4 vols. (London, 1914-1930). A treatment emphasizing the interests of his later years is C.P. Blackers, Eugenics, Galton and After (London, 1952). A good survey of his psychologic contributions is H. E. Garratt, Great Experiments in Psychology (New York, 1951), ch. 12. The 1965 repr. of Finger Prints (see above) contains a biographical intro, by Harold Cummins that places Galton’s fingerprint work in historic context.

Norman T. Gridgeman.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Galton, Francis." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Galton, Francis." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/galton-francis

"Galton, Francis." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/galton-francis

Sir Francis Galton

Sir Francis Galton

The English scientist, biometrician, and explorer Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911) founded the science of eugenics and introduced the theory of the anti-cyclone in meteorology.

Francis Galton was born on Feb. 16, 1822, at Birmingham, the son of Samuel Galton, a businessman, and Violetta Galton. After schooling in Boulogne and privately, he began to study medicine in 1838 but also read mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge.

The death of Galton's father in 1844 left him with considerable independent means, and he abandoned further medical study to travel in Syria, Egypt, and South-West Africa. As a result, he published Tropical South Africa (1853) and The Art of Travel (1855). His travels brought him fame as an explorer, and in 1854 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Geographical Society. He was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1856.

Turning his attention to meteorology, Galton published Meteorographica (1863), in which he described weather mapping, pointing out for the first time the importance of an anticyclone, in which air circulates clockwise round a center of high barometric pressure in the Northern Hemisphere. Cyclones, on the other hand, are low-pressure centers from which air rushes upward and moves counterclockwise.

Meanwhile, Galton had developed an interest in heredity, and the publication of the Origin of Species (1859) by Charles Darwin won Galton's immediate support. Impressed by evidence that distinction of any kind is apt to run in families, Galton made detailed studies of families conspicuous for inherited ability over several generations. He then advocated the application of scientific breeding to human populations. These studies laid the foundation for the science of eugenics (a term he invented), or race improvement, and led to the publication of Hereditary Genius (1869) and English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture (1874).

Finding that advances in the study of heredity were being hampered by the lack of quantitative information, Galton started anthropometric research, devising instruments for the exact measurement of every quantifiable faculty of body or mind. In 1884 he finally set up and equipped a laboratory, the Biometric Laboratory at University College, London, where the public were tested. He measured such traits as keenness of sight and hearing, color sense, reaction time, strength of pull and of squeeze, and height and weight. The system of fingerprints in universal use today derived from this work.

Galton's application of exact quantitative methods gave results which, processed mathematically, developed a numerical factor he called correlation and defined thus: "Two variable organs are said to be co-related when the variation of the one is accompanied on the average by more or less variation of the other, and in the same direction. Co-relation must be the consequence of the variations of the two organs being partly due to common causes. If wholly due … the co-relation would be perfect." Co-relation specified the degree of relationship between any pair of individuals or any two attributes.

The developed presentation of Galton's views on heredity is Natural Inheritance (1889). A difficult work, with mathematics not beyond criticism, it sets out the "law of 1885," which attempts to quantify the influence of former generations in the hereditary makeup of the individual. Parents contribute each one-quarter, grandparents each one-sixteenth, and so on for earlier generations. Claims that Galton anticipated Mendel's ratios seem without foundation. For Galton, evolution ensured the survival of those members of the race with most physical and mental vigor, and he desired to see this come about in human society more speedily and with less pain to the individual through applying eugenics. Evolution was an unresting progression, the nature of the average individual being essentially unprogressive.

Galton used his considerable fortune to promote his scientific interests. He founded the journal Biometrika in 1901, and in 1903 the Eugenics Laboratory in the University of London. He died at Haslemere, Surrey, on Jan. 17, 1911, after several years of frail health. He bequeathed £45,000 to found a professorship in eugenics in the hope that his disciple and pupil Karl Pearson might become its first occupant. This hope was realized.

Further Reading

Galton's own account is Memories of My Life (1908). A full-length biography is Karl Pearson, Francis Galton 1822-1911: An Appreciation (1914-1930).

Additional Sources

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz, Sir Francis Galton and the study of heredity in the nineteenth century, New York: Garland Pub., 1985.

Forrest, Derek William, Francis Galton: the life and work of a Victorian genius, New York: Taplingr Pub. Co., 1974.

Galton Institute (London, England), Symposium (28th: 1991: London, England), Sir Francis Galton, FRS: the legacy of his ideas, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, in association with the Galton Institute, 1993. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sir Francis Galton." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Sir Francis Galton." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sir-francis-galton

"Sir Francis Galton." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sir-francis-galton

Galton, Francis

Galton, Francis

2/16/18221/17/1911
ENGLISH
SCIENTIST, EXPLORER, BIOMETRICIAN

The English scientist, biometrician, and explorer Sir Francis Galton founded the science of eugenics and introduced the theory of the anticyclone in meteorology . Forensic science has benefited from Galton's pioneering anthropometric research. The system of fingerprinting in use today resulted from his work.

Francis Galton was born in Birmingham, England, the son of Samuel Galton, a businessman, and Violetta Galton. After schooling in Boulogne, he began to study medicine in 1838 and also read mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge.

The death of his father in 1844 left Galton with considerable independent means, and he abandoned further medical study to travel in Syria, Egypt, and south West Africa. As a result, he published Tropical South Africa (1853) and The Art of Travel (1855). His travels brought him fame as an explorer, and in 1854 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Geographical Society. He was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1856.

Turning his attention to meteorology, Galton published Meteorographica (1863), in which he described weather mapping, pointing out for the first time the importance of an anticyclone, in which air circulates clockwise round a center of high barometric pressure in the Northern Hemisphere. Cyclones, on the other hand, are low-pressure centers from which air rushes upward and moves counterclockwise.

Meanwhile, Galton had developed an interest in heredity, and the publication of the Origin of Species (1859) by Charles Darwin won Galton's immediate support. Impressed by evidence that distinction of any kind is apt to run in families, Galton made detailed studies of families conspicuous for inherited ability over several generations. He then advocated the application of scientific breeding to human populations. These studies laid the foundation for the science of eugenics (a term he invented), or race improvement, and led to the publication of Hereditary Genius (1869) and English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture (1874).

Finding that advances in the study of heredity were being hampered by the lack of information, Galton started anthropometric research, devising instruments for the exact measurement of every quantifiable faculty of body or mind. In 1884, he finally set up and equipped the Biometric Laboratory at University College, London. He measured such human traits as keenness of sight and hearing, color sense, reaction time, strength of pull and of squeeze, and height and weight. The system of fingerprints in universal use today derived from this work.

The developed presentation of Galton's views on heredity is Natural Inheritance (1889). A complex work, it sets out the "law of 1885," which attempts to quantify the influence of former generations in the hereditary makeup of the individual. Parents each contribute one-quarter, grandparents each one-sixteenth, and so on for earlier generations. For Galton, evolution ensured the survival of those members of the race with most physical and mental vigor. By applying eugenics, he desired to see this come about in human society more speedily and with less pain to the individual. Evolution was an ongoing progression; the nature of the average individual being essentially unprogressive.

Galton's application of exact quantitative methods gave results which, processed mathematically, developed a numerical factor he called correlation and defined thus: "Two variable organs are said to be co-related when the variation of the one is accompanied on the average by more or less variation of the other, and in the same direction. Co-relation must be the consequence of the variations of the two organs being partly due to common causes. If wholly due . . . the co-relation would be perfect." Co-relation specified the degree of relationship between any pair of individuals or any two attributes.

Galton used his considerable fortune to promote his scientific interests. He founded the journal Biometrika in 1901, and in 1903 he established the Eugenics Laboratory in the University of London. He died at Haslemere, Surrey, in 1911, after several years of frail health. He bequeathed £45,000 to found a professorship in eugenics in the hope that his disciple and pupil Karl Pearson might become its first occupant. This hope was realized.

see also Anthropometry; Fingerprint; Integrated automated fingerprint identification system.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Galton, Francis." World of Forensic Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Galton, Francis." World of Forensic Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/galton-francis

"Galton, Francis." World of Forensic Science. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/galton-francis

Galtons problem

Galton's problem The Galton problem is named after Francis Galton, the nineteenth-century British polymath, who became embroiled in a celebrated exchange about the logic of comparative analysis with the anthropologist Edward Tylor. In 1889, Tylor published an article which purported to show clear correlations between the economic and familial institutions of a wide range of past and present societies, and attempted to explain these in functionalist terms. Galton's rejoinder argued that correlations between social institutions might not only arise under pressure of functional exigencies (that is, through processes operating within societies), but also as an effect of cultural diffusion between societies. In this way he questioned Tylor's assumption that each of his national cases represented an independent observation (see the debate in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 1889
).

This problem of distinguishing between autonomous institutional development on the one hand, and institutional development influenced by cultural diffusion on the other, remains a central issue in comparative macrosociology. For example, it is plausible to argue that the national institutions associated with the emergence of modern welfare states have in different ways been influenced by the examples of the Beveridge Plan for post-1945 Britain, nineteenth-century Bismarckian social policy in Germany, or the contemporary so-called Scandinavian model. Indeed, some observers argue that the process of globalization, the emergence of the world-system, and policies of certain multinational corporations and political organizations are accelerating and intensifying the effects of cultural diffusion, to the point at which these undermine the very possibility of a comparative macrosociology based on ‘independent’ national observations: we may be moving towards a world in which N = 1.

Empirically, the problems posed for cross-national comparative analysis by processes of cultural diffusion seem to vary across different spheres of social life, being particularly pronounced in the study of economic and social policy (where governments purposively do often emulate each other). Similarly, it is clear that theorists wishing to develop general accounts of rebellion that emphasize indigenous causes must recognize that revolutionaries have everywhere learned from each other, so that (for example) the course of the Chinese revolution was in part shaped by the earlier Russian experience. Elsewhere, however, such as in the study of class differentials in educational attainment, there is evidence to suggest that national variations are in fact largely attributable to processes of social selection which are distinctive to indigenous institutions—despite the apparent cross-national similarities in programmes of educational expansion and reform. It is also possible to model cross-national interdependence into comparative macrosociology, for example by using event-history analysis to study how institutional and policy development is affected both by domestic factors, and by the timing of cross-national influences of particular kinds.

For an excellent discussion of the implications of Galton's problem for the methodology of comparative macrosociology, of both a case-oriented (qualitative) and variable-oriented (quantitative) kind, and of wider problems of theory development and testing in this field, see the symposium in volume 16 of the journal Comparative Social Research (1997). See also COMPARATIVE SOCIOLOGY; FUNCTION.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Galtons problem." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Galtons problem." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/galtons-problem

"Galtons problem." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/galtons-problem

Galton, Sir Francis

Sir Francis Galton (gôl´tən), 1822–1911, English scientist, founder of eugenics; cousin of Charles Darwin. He turned from exploration and meteorology (where he introduced the theory of the anticyclone) to the study of heredity and eugenics (a term that he coined). Galton devised the correlation coefficient and brought other statistical methods into this work, which was carried on by his pupil Karl Pearson as the science of biometrics. In his Hereditary Genius (1869) he presented strong evidence that talent is an inherited characteristic. Galton established a system of classifying fingerprints that is still used today. He was knighted in 1909. The best known of his books is Inquiries into Human Faculty (1883).

See his Memories of My Life (1908, repr. 1974); biographies by K. Pearson (3 vol. in 4, 1914–30), N. W. Gillham (2002), and M. Brookes (2004); study by H. F. Crovitz (1970).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Galton, Sir Francis." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Galton, Sir Francis." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/galton-sir-francis

"Galton, Sir Francis." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/galton-sir-francis