Recognized HTML document
Previous Index Next

Life and Letters of Francis Galton

searching. It was only the feeling that, at least in one or two aspects of Francis Galton's later life and of his scientific work, I could perhaps put his contributions to human knowledge more adequately than possibly one or another who might take up the task, if I resigned it, and who would hardly grasp the bearing of that long and intimate scientific correspondence between Galton, Weldon and myself, that I persevered in my endeavour -to give some account of a life, wherein an important chapter of personal development must remain largely unrecorded.

The last source of delay has been the difficulty of collecting the illustrative material, with which I determined from the start to accompany this work. The records had to be collected from many sources, and it was soon clear to me that I was collecting as much information bearing on the family history of Charles Darwin as on that of Francis Galton. It seemed desirable to place the two men to some extent in contrast in my volume, showing in ancestry, in methods of work and in outlook on life what they had in common and how they differed. Twenty years ago, no one would have questioned which was the greater man. To-day the work of Darwin is being largely. undermined by a new view of heredity. We are told that " the transformation of masses of population by imperceptible steps, guided by_ selection, is as most of us now see, so inapplicable to the facts, whether of variation, or of specificity, that we can only marvel both at the want of penetration displayed by the advocates of such a proposition, and at the forensic skill by which it was made to appear acceptable even for a time'." Foremost among such advocates were Charles Darwin and Alfred -Russel Wallabe. If the judgment given above be correct, Darwinian evolution is only a fallacy supported for a time by " forensic skill." Its propounders must belong to a school which will leave no permanent mark on human thought. The last twenty years have seen a continual progress, not only in the expansion of the methods initiated by Galton, but in the recognition of the purposes to which he desired their application; above all we have approached much closer to the conscious study of what makes for race efficiency-to the application of Darwinian ideas to the directed evolution of man. If Darwinism is to survive the open as well as covert attacks of the Mendelian school, it will only be because in the future a new race of biologists will arise trained up in Galtonian method and able to criticise from that standpoint both Darwinism

1 Problems of Genetics, by William Bateson, p. 248, New Haven, 1913. -

Previous Index Next