Francis Galton

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In existographies, Francis Galton (133-44 BE) (1822-1911 ACM) (IQ:150|#886) (RGM:172|1,350+) (PR:2,916|65AE / statistician:1) (Becker 160:123|3L) (Simmons 100:94) (CR:53) (LH:7) (TL:60) was an English anthropologist, statistician, psychologist, half-cousin to English naturalist Charles Darwin, noted for his 1869 Hereditary Genius, one of the first books on the science of genius; for his 1879 dialogue[1] with James Maxwell on the topic of free will; for his interest in William Thomson’s lecture on Maxwell's demon at the Royal Institute; and for being the first historical person that Lewis Terman (1917) did an IQ calculation of (see: Galton's IQ) using his newly-invented "historiometric method".


Hereditary Genius

In 1869, Francis Galton, on the heels of his cousin Charles Darwin's 1859 On the Origin of Species, published Hereditary Genius, characterized as the first scientific attempt to study genius and greatness.[2] While path breaking, the study was biased from the get-go, per Galton's underlying aim to prove that genius was inherited. This didn't meet well many:

Galton, in Hereditary Genius, went to great lengths to show that talent runs in families and was coded into our biology. Oddly enough, he never pointed out that more than half of his ‘geniuses’ is turned up in families with no history of distinction at all such was the power of prejudice that he concentrated only on those who supported his hereditarian views.”
— Steve Jones (1994), The Language of Genes (pg. 225)[3]

Moreover, presently, via analysis of the top 2000 minds, "genius families" are very rare, meaning genius generally is not something in the genes or inherited, as Galton believed. Nevertheless, this was on of the first main publications in the now-popular science of genius studies.

Eugenics | Good Genes

In 1883, Galton, in his Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development , building on his earlier “inherited genius” theory, says his new aim is to venture into the following objective:

“My general object has been to take note of the varied hereditary faculties of different men, and of the great differences in different families and races, to learn how far history may have shown the practicability of supplanting inefficient human stock by better strains, and to consider whether it might not be our duty to do so by such efforts as may be reasonable, thus exerting ourselves to further the ends of evolution more rapidly and with less distress than if events were left to their own course.”
— Francis Galton (1883), Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development (pgs. 1-2)[4]

Here, Galton seems to be under the impression that evolution is "goal" of the universe? Next, he seems to say that it is the duty of man, in the scheme of evolution, to improve different races:

“We must free our minds of a great deal of prejudice before we can rightly judge of the direction in which different races need to be improved. I shall endeavour to define the place and duty of man in the furtherance of the great scheme of evolution”
— Francis Galton (1883), Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development (pgs. 3-4)

Further along, following discussion of photo morphs, e.g. where the average of 20 photos of women overlaid is deemed more “attractive”, per reasons of averageness, than any of the composite photos, facial shapes, and body shapes, in what seem to be a crude attempt at evolutionary psychology, he then jumps to the focus of his book, which is the “cultivation of races”, similar to the cultivation of crops or animals:

“I do not propose to enter further into the anthropometric differences of race, for the subject is a very large one, and this book does not profess to go into detail. Its intention is to touch on various topics more or less connected with that of the cultivation of race, or, as we might call it, with ‘eugenic’ questions, and to present the results of several of my own separate investigations. That is, with questions bearing on what is termed in Greek, eugenes, namely, ‘good’ in stock, hereditarily endowed with noble qualities. This, and the allied words, eugeneia, etc., are equally applicable to men, brutes, and plants. We greatly want a brief word to express the science of improving stock, which is by no means confined to questions of judicious mating, but which, especially in the case of man, takes cognizance of all influences that tend in however remote a degree to give to the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable than they otherwise would have had. The word eugenics would sufficiently express the idea; it is at least a neater word and a more generalized one than ‘viriculture’, which I once ventured to use.”
— Francis Galton (1883), Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development (pgs. 24-25)

Here, while we all certainly desire to have "good genes", if that is what is meant in the term "eugenes", such as seen in the modern practice of getting prenatal genetic screening tests, to determine if abnormalities exist in the fetus, the idea making a science that gives "suitable races" a better means to prevail over "less suitable" races, "more speedily", seems to be a blurry idea, as to whatever he had in mind by this statement, as applied universally to "men, animals, and plants"? As for what he means by "race", Galton goes on to call Quakers a race, and notes that interbreeding has resulted in a higher rate of red-green color blindness, and that Thomas Young married out of the group, such that if he had children they would have better genes in respect to red-green color blindness. He then speaks about gypsies as a race, and talks about criminals and mentally insane. He goes on to present the idea that via using statistics, and studying human for four+ generations, we might be able to breed better stock, the same way people breed horses, cattle, and dogs.


In the 20th century, tens of thousand in America, and millions in Germany, and by Germans during WWII, were "killed" or sterilized owing to Galton's eugenics theory. Hitler, in his in his Mein Kampf (1934), e.g. cited “American eugenics”, as justification for his Ayran race genes theory.[5]


Following this intro, he then opens to his so-called “energy” section, which he states as follows:

Energy is the capacity for labor. It is consistent with all the robust virtues, and makes a large practice of them possible. It is the measure of fullness of life; the more energy the more abundance of it; no energy at all is death; idiots are feeble and listless. In the inquiries I made on the antecedents of men of science (Galton, 1874), no points came out more strongly than that the leaders of scientific thought were generally gifted with remarkable energy, and that they had inherited the ‘gift’ of it from their parents and grandparents. I have since found the same to be the case in other careers.”
— Francis Galton (1883), Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development (pg. 25)

Here, according to Darwin, the "remarkable energy" behind the famous men of science, supposedly, is a "gift" from parents and grandparents? While there is some semblance of truth to what he says here, e.g. the potential energy built up during education, funded and directed by parents and grandparents, turns into the kinetic energy of societal occupation, the underlying premise of "energy" being "gifts", and scientific genius being inherited, is off.

Next, he jumps to the following:

Energy is an attribute of the higher races, being favored beyond all other qualities by natural selection. We are goaded into activity by the conditions and struggles of life. They afford stimuli that oppress and worry the weakly, who complain and bewail, and it may be succumb to them, but which the energetic man welcomes with a good-humored shrug, and is the better for in the end.”
— Francis Galton (1883), Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development (pgs. 25-26)

Here, we are reminded of the following advice:

“Never use the words ‘higher’ or ‘lower’.”
Charles Darwin (c.1845), note written on the margin of his copy of Robert Chambers’ 1844 Vestiges of The Natural History of Creation[6]
“I use this expression, though I am aware that it is hardly possible to define clearly what is meant by the organization being ‘higher’ or ‘lower’. But no one will probably dispute that the butterfly is higher than the caterpillar.”
— Charles Darwin (1859), On the Origin of Species (pg. 441)[7]

Galton then concludes:

“It may be objected that if the race were too healthy and energetic there would be insufficient call for the exercise of the pitying and self-denying virtues, and the character of men would grow harder in consequence. But it does not seem reasonable to preserve sickly breeds for the sole purpose of tending them, as the breed of foxes is preserved solely for sport and its attendant advantages. There is little fear that misery will ever cease from the land, or that the compassionate will fail to find objects for their compassion; but at present the supply vastly exceeds the demand : the land is overstocked and overburdened with the listless and the incapable. In any scheme of eugenics, energy is the most important quality to favor; it is, as we have seen, the basis of living action, and it is eminently transmissible by descent.”
— Francis Galton (1883), Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development (pg. 27)

This entire scheme, of "energy being the most important quality to favor" and that "energy is transmissible by descent", is a bit off-base, as per modern human chemical thermodynamics defines things.

End matter


  1. Maxwell, James C., Garber, Elizabeth, Brush, Stephen G., and Everitt, C.W. Francis. (1995). Maxwell on Heat and Statistical Mechanics (pgs. 59-60). Lehigh University Press.
  2. Galton, Francis. (1869). Hereditary Genius: an Inquiry into its Law and Consequences. London: Macmillan.
  3. (a) Jones, S. (1994). The Language of Genius (pg. 225). London. (b) Sesardic, Neven. (2005). Making Sense of Heritability (pg. 17). Cambridge University Press.
  4. Galton, Francis. (1883). Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development. Publisher.
  5. Eugenics –
  6. (a) Chambers, Robert. (1844). Vestiges of The Natural History of Creation (higher, 34+ pgs; lower, 28+ pgs). W&R Chambers.
    (b) Mayr, Ernst. (1988). Toward a New Philosophy of Biology (pg. 251). Harvard University Press.
    (c) Klyce, Brig. (2013). “The Second Law of Thermodynamics” (Ѻ),
  7. Darwin, Charles. (1859). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (higher, 29+ pgs; quote, pg. 441). Murray.

Further reading

External links

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