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CHAPTER II

THE ANCESTRY OF FRANCIS GALTON

IT is only fitting that an early chapter of the life of Francis Galton should be devoted to some account of the ancestry of a man, who did so much to make the world at large appreciate the value of a good series of forbears. To some it may seem that Francis Galton in his Memories may have said all that is needful on the point of ancestry ; to others the mere statement that he was a grandson of Erasmus Darwin and a half-cousin to Charles Darwin may appear to account for his ability and for the directions of his scientific work. To a third group of persons, which has been much in evidence of late, the doctrine that mental characters are inherited appears to be not only absurd, but a sign of mental depravity in its upholders ; they would probably consider without investigation that both Charles Darwin and Francis Galton were intellectually the product of their environments, and that all further inquiry was wasted energy. Because there are so many able men whose ancestry is insignificant, the group to which I refer has never mastered the paradox that, while ability is inherited, a majority of able men have not had a noteworthy ancestry. Pairs of exceptional parents produce exceptional sons at a rate more than ten times as great as commonplace parents, but because exceptional parents only form about one-half per cent. of the community exceptional men as a rule have not had a noteworthy ancestry.

It is peculiarly fitting in this place to turn to the question of ancestry, because if there is one point in his work that Francis Galton laid emphasis upon it was that the mental aptitudes are hereditary. His three chief works, Hereditary Genius, English. Men of Science and Inquiries into Human Faculty were essentially devoted to the thesis that mental characters are inherited in the same manner and at the same rate as the physical characters. Even in his Natural Inheritance, Galton's fourth great book, he writes

"We may therefore conclude that the same law ... which governs the inheritance both of Stature and Eye-colour, applies equally to the Artistic Faculty" (p. 162).


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