Galton, Francis (DNB12)

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GALTON, Sir FRANCIS (1822–1911), founder of the school of 'eugenics,' born at Birmingham on 16 Feb. 1822, was youngest of a family of four daughters and three sons born to Samuel Tertius Galton (1783–1844), banker, and his wife Frances Anne Vloletta (1783–1874), daughter by a second marriage of Dr. Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) [q. v.], the philosophical poet and man of science. The Galtons were members of the Society of Friends, and many of them were men of ability, amassing considerable fortunes as gunsmiths and bankers. Through his mother he was also related to men and women of mark.

After education at several small schools he was sent for two years (1836-8) to King Edward's School at Birmingham, but did not profit much from the classical curriculum in use there. Being intended for the medical profession, after preliminary apprenticeships to medical men at Birmingham, he studied for a year (1839-40) at the medical school of King's College, London. In 1840 he made a rapid tour to Vienna, Constantinople, and Smyrna; and at Michaelmas 1840 entered at Trinity College, Cambridge. He there made friendships with many notable men and read mathematics under WilUam Hopkins (1793-1866) [q. v.], but illness prevented him from pursuing his course, and he took a 'poll' degree in 1844.

In 1844 his father died, and he found himself with means sufficiently ample to allow him to abandon the proposed medical career. He accordingly made a somewhat adventurous journey up the Nile to Khartum and afterwards in Syria. On his return he devoted himself from 1845 to 1850 to sport, but as this did not satisfy his ambition he determined to make a voyage of exploration at his own expense. Damaraland in south-west equatorial Africa (now German territory), then quite unknown to the civilised world, was fixed on as the scene of his exploration. Landing at Walfish Bay, he penetrated far into the interior amid many dangers and hardships, and on his return he published an interesting account of his journey entitled 'Tropical South Africa' (1853 ; 2nd edit. 1889).

This journey made him well known as an explorer, and from this time he played an important part on the council of the Royal Geographical Society, only retiring when deafness impeded his usefulness at their deliberations. In 1856 he was elected F.R.S., and frequently served on the council of the Royal Society.

As a result of his African journey he wrote a useful book, 'The Art of Travel' (1855; latest edit. 1872, and latest reprint 1893), describing artifices of use to travellers—a valuable vade-mecum for explorers. After his return from Africa, although he travelled extensively in Europe and became a member of the Alpine Club, he undertook no further exploration, because his health had suffered much from the hardships he had endured.

Galton took an active part in the administration of science. From 1863 to 1867 he was general secretary of the British Association; he was four times a sectional president, and twice declined the presidency. In 1863 he published 'Meteorographica, or Methods of Mapping the Weather.' In this work he pointed out the importance of 'anticyclones' (a word introduced by him), in which the air circulates clockwise (in the northern hemisphere) round a centre of high barometric pressure. This completed the basis of the system of weather forecasting now in operation throughout the civilised world. He also made other considerable contributions to meteorology. This work led to his membership from 1868 to 1900 of the meteorological committee and of the subsequent council, the governing body of the Meteorological Office. He had also previously been connected with Kew Observatory, an institution initiated by General Sir Edward Sabine (1788-1883) [q. v.] for magnetic and meteorological observations. He was a member of the Kew committee of the Royal Society from soon after its foundation, and was chairman from 1889 to 1901.

Meteorology did not nearly suffice to occupy Galton's active mind; already in 1865 he was occupied with those researches into the laws of heredity with which his name will always be associated. In the course of these investigations he was led to perceive the deficiency of tabulated data as to human attributes. He therefore initiated an anthropometric laboratory in connection with the International Health Exhibition of 1884-6, for the purpose of collecting statistics as to the acuteness of the senses, the strength, height, and dimensions of large numbers of people. He devised the apparatus and organised the laboratory himself. When the exhibition was closed the laboratory was moved elsewhere, and it was the forerunner of the biometric laboratory at University College, London.

Among the data collected in this way were impressions of fingers, and Galton thought they might be used for identification. Sir William Herschel had previously wished to use the method in India, and Dr. Faulds had made a similar suggestion in England. Galton then confirmed earlier investigations which proved the permanence of fingerprints from youth to old age, and devised a dictionary of prints whereby an individual leaving a mark may surely be identified. The method is now in use in the criminal departments of every civilised country. An account of Galton's work is contained in his 'Finger Prints' (1893); 'Blurred Finger Prints' (1893); and 'Finger Print Directory' (1895).

It is due to Galton more than to any other man that many attributes generally regarded as only susceptible of qualitative estimate have been reduced to measurement. For example, he showed how to obtain a numerical measure of the degree of resemblance between two persons, and he made a map to show the geographical distribution of beauty in Great Britain. He devised the method of composite photographs in which each member of a group of persons makes an equal impress on the resulting portrait. Another attempt to annul the resemblance and to register only the individuality was not very successful. To psychology Galton also made contributions which were important and very original. He showed that different minds work in different ways, and, for example, that visual images play a large part with some but not with others. He investigated visual memory as to illumination, definition, colouring, and the like, and the visions seen not very infrequently by the sane. Akin to this was an inquiry into the patterns or pictures associated in many minds with numbers. He also experimented on taste, on smell, on the muscular sense of weight, on the judgment of experts in guessing the weight of cattle, and on many cognate points. His investigations give him a high rank amongst experimental psychologists, and yet they were merely collateral to the main stream of his work.

On the publication in 1859 of the 'Origin of Species' by his cousin, Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882) [q. v.], Galton at once became a convert to the views there enounced and began reflecting on the influence of heredity on the human race. He had been impressed by his own observation with the fact that distinction of any kind is apt to him in families. He therefore made a series of statistical inquiries whereby he proved the heritability of genius of all kinds. These investigations extended over forty years, and the results are set forth in his works: 'Hereditary Genius' (1869); 'English Men of Science' (1874); 'Human Faculty' (1883) 'Natural Inheritance' (1889); and 'Noteworthy Families' (1906).

Such investigations necessarily brought him to face the fundamental principles of statistics, and although his mathematical equipment was inadequate he obtained a remarkably clear insight into the subject. In the hands of Karl Pearson and of others his work led to the formulation of new statistical methods. The leading point is that he showed how the degree of relationship between any pair of attributes or any pair of individuals may be estimated by a numerical factor termed the correlation. He also gave a numerical estimate of the average contribution to each individual from his two parents and his remoter ancestry.

Collateral to these researches were experiments on Darwin's theory of pangenesis by transfusion of the blood of rabbits inter se; the results were however negative.

The study of heredity led Galton to the conviction that the human race might gain an indefinite improvement by breeding from the best and restricting the offspring of the worst. To this study he gave the name of 'eugenics,' and it is probably by this that he will be best known in the future. But he was under no illusion as to the rapidity with which favourable results may be attained, and he foresaw that it would need a prolonged education before an adequate knowledge of the power of heredity shall permeate the community. With the object of promoting this education he co-operated in the formation of 'eugenic societies,' and established in 1904 a eugenics laboratory to be worked in connection with the biometric laboratory mentioned above. He further founded in 1904 a research fellowship and in 1907 a scholarship in eugenic researches at University College. A quarterly journal entitled 'Biometrika' had already been initiated in 1901, and he was 'consulting editor.'

Galton received many honours, including medals from the English and French Geographical Societies in 1853 and 1854; a royal medal of the Royal Society in 1876; Huxley medal of the Anthropological Institute in 1901; Darwin medal of the Royal Society in 1902; Darwin-Wallace medal of the Linnaean Society in 1908; and the Copley medal of the Royal Society in 1910. He was made Officier de l'Instruction publique de France in 1891; hon. D.C.L. Oxford in 1894; hon. D.Sc. Cambridge in 1895; hon. fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1902; and was knighted by patent on 26 June 1909.

Galton lived chiefly in London, and for the latter part of his life at Rutland Gate, going much into society, principally in literary and scientific circles. He was universally popular and an excellent conversationalist, with a very keen sense of humour. During the last four or live years of his life he became very infirm in body, although his intellect remained as clear as ever. He died on 17 Jan. 1911 of acute bronchitis at Grayshott House, Haslemere, a house he had taken for the winter months. He was buried in the family vault at Claverdon near Warwick.

On 1 Aug. 1853 Galton married Louisa Jane, daughter of George Butler (1774–1853) [q. v.], dean of Peterborough and previously headmaster of Harrow School. Mrs. Galton died on 13 Aug. 1897 at Royal after a long period of ill health; she had no children.

He left by will his residual estate, amounting to about 45,000l., for the foundation of a chair of eugenics in the University of London, and he wished Karl Pearson to be the first professor. The capital was to remain as far as possible untouched, and a laboratory was to be built from other sources. For the latter object a subscription has been started since his death.

Portraits of Galton by O. Oakley (ætat. 22, water-colour) and by Charles Wellington Furse in oils (1903) are in the possession of his nephew, Edward Galton Wheler, at Claverdon Leys, Warwick, and a copy of the latter by Francis William Carter hangs in the hall at Trinity College, Cambridge. There is a bronze bust of Galton by Sir George Frampton at University College, Gower Street, London. In 1908 he wrote an amusing work entitled 'Memories of my Life,' containing a complete list of his papers and books.

[Memories of my Life; personal knowledge and private information. A Life of Galton is being prepared by Professor Karl Pearson, F.R.S.]

G. H. D.