Francis
Galton
Pioneer of Heredity and Biometry
Michael Bulmer
Johns Hopkins University Press
hardcover 0-8018-7403-3
2003 376 pp. 3 halftones and 17 line drawings
This is available through
Amazon. Bulmer provides a crisp overview of Galton's life and
general interests, followed by a detailed examination of Galton's general
account of heredity and his statistical study of the inheritance of complex
traits. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. A detailed review will follow here.
From the
St. John Hopkins University Press description:
If not for the work of his half cousin Francis Galton, Charles Darwin's
evolutionary theory might have met a somewhat different fate. In particular,
with no direct evidence of natural selection and no convincing theory of
heredity to explain it, Darwin needed a mathematical explanation of
variability and heredity. Galton's work in biometry—the application of
statistical methods to the biological sciences—laid the foundations for
precisely that. This book offers readers a compelling portrait of Galton as
the "father of biometry," tracing the development of his ideas and his
accomplishments, and placing them in their scientific context.
Though Michael Bulmer introduces readers to the curious facts of Galton's
life—as an explorer, as a polymath and member of the Victorian intellectual
aristocracy, and as a proponent of eugenics—his chief concern is with
Galton's pioneering studies of heredity, in the course of which he invented
the statistical tools of regression and correlation. Bulmer describes
Galton's early ambitions and experiments—his investigations of problems of
evolutionary importance (such as the evolution of gregariousness and the
function of sex), and his movement from the development of a physiological
theory to a purely statistical theory of heredity, based on the properties
of the normal distribution. This work, culminating in the law of ancestral
heredity, also put Galton at the heart of the bitter conflict between the "ancestrians"
and the "Mendelians" after the rediscovery of Mendelism in 1900. A graceful
writer and an expert biometrician, Bulmer details the eventual triumph of
biometrical methods in the history of quantitative genetics based on
Mendelian principles, which underpins our understanding of evolution today.
"Well-written, with a good pace, clear explanations, and a good eye for
alternating the technical exposition with interesting personal detail.
Anyone with a basic interest in the history of biology or of statistics will
find it a valuable and enjoyable read."—James Franklin, University of New
South Wales, author of The Science of Conjecture
"Sir Francis Galton is a neglected scientific genius. Buried under the
ignominy of having coined the word eugenics only his reputation as a
dilettante amateur scientist survived. But in this book, Michael Bulmer
shows that Galton was to the science of heredity what Charles Babbage was to
computing. Babbage knew no electrons and Galton no genes, but their ideas
have transcended the discovery of both. Bulmer gives the first full account
of Galton's theory of ancestral heredity which so influenced Pearson, and
shows how, with his experiments on the inheritance of seed-weight in the
sweet pea, Galton did for the inheritance of continuous characters what
Gregor Mendel (unknown to Galton and his generation) had done for discrete
characters. Bulmer's book is a major contribution to an understanding of the
path-breaking biological and statistical work of 'the father of
biometry'."—A. W. F. Edwards, University of Cambridge, author of Pascal's
Arithmetic Triangle and Likelihood
Michael Bulmer is Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford
University. |