Biography of Francis Galton

The publication in 1859 of the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin made a marked epoch in my own mental development, as it did in that of human thought generally. Its effect was to demolish a multitude of dogmatic barriers by a single stroke, and to arouse a spirit of rebellion against all ancient authorities whose positive and unauthenticated statements were contradicted by modern science.

I doubt, however, whether any instance has occurred in which the perversity of the educated classes in misunderstanding what they attempted to discuss was more painfully conspicuous.    -- Francis Galton, Memories of My Life

Galton came from exceptionally good stock in multiple lines.

Memories of My Life
by Francis Galton.
Facsimile of full text in PDF format (London: Methuen, 1908).  Several chapters have also been transcribed into text.

The Intelligence Quotient of Francis Galton in Childhood by Lewis Terman  American Journal of Psychology 28 (1917): 209-215

The Life, Letters and Labours of Francis Galton
by Karl Pearson.
Facsimile of full text in PDF format.

A new biography of Galton was published in November 2001.  By the biologist Nicholas Wright Gillham, it was issued by Oxford University Press.

Michael Bulmer's study of Galton has now been published.

An older biography by D.W. Forrest, Francis Galton: The Life and Work of a Victorian Genius, is out of print but widely available second-hand.

A new biography by Raymond Fancher is also in progress. Fancher has also written several articles on Galton, as a result of research toward the new biography.

42 Rutland Gate, London, now much altered since Galton lived there.

When I was a boy, my father, who was a country doctor, used to take me on his rounds to visit his patients. Of these by far the most impressive was the squire of a neighbouring village called Claverdon, a small Warwickshire hamlet, lying between Stratford-on-Avon and Birmingham. The squire was an octogenarian named Darwin Galton. On his mother's side he was the grandson of Erasmus Darwin, physician, zoologist, botanist, and poet, and on his father's of a Birmingham Quaker who had made his money by manufacturing rifles. He himself was the eldest son in a family of nine. And, when he was fit, I was sometimes taken up to see him, and so met many other members of the same family, including the youngest, called Frank or Francis.

Francis Galton was one of the most distinguished-looking people I have ever known-tall, slim, neatly dressed, with a forehead like the dome of St. Paul's My father, who was an ardent Darwinian, used to try to inspire me with intellectual ambitions of my own by telling me of the remarkable investigations carried out and published by this exceptionally brilliant member of an exceptionally brilliant family. I met him again as an undergraduate at Oxford, and later in London shortly before his death. He died in January, 1911, at Haslemere (Surrey), in a house he had taken to escape the London winter; and his body now lies in the family vault in Claverdon churchyard.

Sir Cyril Burt
Brit. Jour. of  Stat. Psych. May 1962


The fenced Galton family plot in the Claverdon graveyard.

Galton's gravestone


Francis Galton: Timeline
(following Pearson)

Age Years
0--5 Trained under Sister Adele 1822 -- 1827
6--7 Dame School 1828 -- 1829
8--9 School at Boulogne 1830 -- 1831
10--12 School at Kenilworth 1832 -- 1831
13--15 King Edward's School, Birmingham 1835 -- 1837
16 Medical Education, General Hospital, Birmingham 1838
17 Medical Education, King's College, London 1839
18 1st Journey, down Danube to Smyrna 1840
18--21 Mathematical Education Cambridge 1840 -- 1843
22 2nd Journey, Egypt, Khartoum, Syria 1844 -- 1845
22--27 Hunting and Shooting 1845 -- 1849
28--30 3rd Journey, Tropical Africa 1850 -- 1852
31 Marriage 1853
Art of Travel and Meteorology 1854 -- 1864
32--42 New Influences:
(a) Quetelet's research on applications of probability, translated in 1849. 1849
(b) Darwin's Origin of Species 1859
43 First researches in Heredity (Hereditary Talent and Character) 1865
47 Hereditary Genius 1869
50 Statistical Enquiries as to Prayer 1872
48 Heredity: Anthropometry 1870 onwards
52 English Men of Science, their Nature and Nurture 1874
54 Heredity: Psychometry 1876 onwards
56 Portraiture work 1878 onwards
61 Human Faculty 1883
66 Personal identification (arising from an enquiry as to the permanency of characters). Finger prints 1888 onwards
67 Natural Inheritance 1889
72 First academic lectures on variation and correlation accompanied by laboratory work started at University College October 1891 Start of biometric laboratory 1894
74 Measurement of plants and animals committee, Royal Society 1896
67,77 Law of Ancestral Heredity (1889) 1897
79 Biometrika founded, Galton writes preface and becomes consulting editor 1901 -- 1911
79-89 Eugenics movement 1901
82 Research fellowship in eugenics in University of London "Eugenics Office" 1904
85 Transformation of "Eugenics Office" into the "Eugenics Laboratory" and its association with the biometric laboratory 1907
89 Death and by bequest foundation of the Galton Professorship and endowment of the Laboratory of Eugenics in the University of London 1911