Francis Galton (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Galton was responsible for developing modern statistical methods and laid the foundation for modern psychology and for the eugenics movement.
Francis Galton was born at Birmingham, England, on February 16, 1822, to Samuel Tertius Galton and Violetta Darwin Galton, the daughter of Erasmus Darwin. Thus, Galton and Charles Darwin were cousins.
Galton’s early education was provided by his sister Adele, who was his elder by twelve years. She took a special interest in Francis’ education. Before Francis enrolled in school for formal education, Adele had already taught him to read English, Greek, and Latin and had taught him simple arithmetic. In 1836, at the age of fourteen, Galton was enrolled in King Edward’s school in Birmingham, where the curriculum was primarily Latin and Greek. In Memories of My Life (1908), Galton wrote that while at the school he craved “an abundance of good English reading, well-taught mathematics, and solid science.”
After attending King Edward’s School for two years, Galton became a pupil at the Birmingham General Hospital to prepare for a career in medicine. For a young boy of sixteen, he was immediately given a position of much responsibility in the dispensary. He prepared infusions, decoctions, tinctures, and extracts. In Memories of My Life, his early medical experiences are emotionally described. Galton’s...
(The entire section is 2463 words.)
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Galton, Francis (World of Forensic Science)
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
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.