Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/129

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125
EUGENICS

EUGENICS: WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO INTELLECT AND CHARACTER[1]
By Professor EDWARD L. THORNDIKE
TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

BY eugenics is meant, as you all know, the improvement of mankind by breeding. It has been decided by those responsible for this lecture—Mrs. Huntington Wilson and the president and trustees of the university—that its topic shall be the intellectual and moral, rather than the physical, improvement of the human stock.

Common observation teaches that individuals of the same sex and age differ widely in intellect, character and achievement. The more systematic and exact observations made by scientific students of human nature emphasize the extent of these differences. Whether we take some trivial function—such as memory for isolated words, or delicacy of discrimination of pitch—or take some broad symptom of man's nature, such as his rate of progress through school, or ability in tests of abstract intellect, or even his general intellectual and moral repute—men differ widely. Samples of the amount and distribution of such differences are given in Charts 1, 2 and 3. Chart 1 relates that of 732 children who had studied arithmetic equally long, one could get over a hundred examples done correctly in fifteen minutes, while others could not get correct answers to five. Even if we leave out of account the top three per cent., covering all the records of 60 or over, we have some children achieving twenty-five times as many correct answers as other children.

Chart 2 shows that when four hundred children who had had similar school training were given each the same amount of practise in certain work in division, some improve not at all, and others enormously. Chart 3 shows that of children in the same school all of the same year-age (thirteen), some have done the work of the eight grades of the elementary school and of one or two years of the high school, while others have not completed the work of a single year. Still less competence at intellectual tasks could be found by including children from asylums for imbeciles and idiots.

The differences thus found amongst individuals of the same sex and age are due in large measure to original, inborn characteristics of the intellectual and moral constitution of the individuals in question. They are, it is true, in part due to differences in maturity—one thirteen-year old being further advanced in development than another. They are

  1. A lecture given at Columbia University, in March, 1913.