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PREFACE
THE idea of investigating the subject of hereditary genius occurred to me
during the course of a purely ethnological inquiry, into the mental
peculiarities of different races; when the fact, that characteristics cling to
families, was so frequently forced on my notice as to induce me to pay
especial attention to that branch of the subject. I began by thinking over the
dispositions and achievements of my contemporaries at school, at college,
and in after life, and was surprised to find how frequently ability seemed to
go by descent. Then I made a cursory examination into the kindred of about
four hundred illustrious men of all periods of history, and the results were
such, in my own opinion, as completely to establish the theory that genius
was hereditary, under limitations that required to be investigated. Thereupon
I set to work to gather a large amount of carefully selected biographical
data, and in the meantime wrote two articles on the subject, which
appeared in Macmillan's Magazine in June and in August, 1865. I also
attacked the subject from many different sides and sometimes with very
minute inquiries, because it was long before the methods I finally adopted
were matured. I mention all this, to show that the foundation for my
theories is broader than appears in the book, and
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