Recognized HTML document

Statistical Investigations   407

Galton of as great influence as the vagaries of the judicial mind? His material is heterogeneous, in that it covers a great variety of classes of crime from misdemeanours to felonies. For many of these offences a period of imprisonment, or at least a maximum period of imprisonment, has been fixed by the legislature itself, and however much a judge might consider an offender to deserve a longer period of imprisonment he could not inflict it. I think the irregularity which undoubtedly manifests itself in these results is due as much to the 'vox legislatorum' as to the 'vox judicum.' This might be easily ascertained by discussing the returns separated out into individual classes of crime. Whatever may be the exact origin of the anomalies-which are certainly present if we hold that anti-social conduct is a continuous variatewe may safely conclude with Galton

"by moralising on the large effects upon the durance of a prisoner, that flow from such irrelevant influences as the associations connected with decimal or duodecimal habits and the unconscious favour or disfavour felt for particular numbers. These trifles have been now shown on fairly trustworthy evidence to determine the choice of such widely different sentences as imprisonment for 3 or 5 years, of 5 or 7, and of 7 or 10, for crimes whose penal deserts would otherwise be

rated at 4, 6 and 8 or 9 years respectively."

There is a passage in this memoir which would have delighted the heart of the " Passionate Statistician." It runs

"We test the acquirements of youths by repeated examinations,, but do not as yet employ the methods of statistics to test the performances of professional men. Examiners, for example, should themselves be tested in this way', and I have a fancy that a discussion of the clinical reports at the various large hospitals might enable a cautious statistician to express with some accuracy the curative capacities of different medical men, in numerical terms. Before putting oneself into the hands of any new professional adviser, it would certainly be a grateful help to know the indices of capacity of those among whom the choice lay, not such as might be inferred from their performances in school and undergraduate days, or by their unchecked professional

repute, but as they really are in their mature and practical life." (p. 176.)

What a readjustment of values there would be if those "indices of capacity " were found one morning attached to the brass plates of Harley Street or inscribed in the more sober black and white of the passages in Lincoln's Inn !

Two further contributions of Francis Galton may be just mentioned. On the death of Dr Samuel Haughton he wrote' pointing out that amid Haughton's many-sided activities he had introduced the "long drop," as the most painless death by hanging by the neck. Haughton had experimented on the tensile strength of the spine and muscles of the neck and published a formula for the length of drop dependent on the height and weight of the culprit. Galton believed Haughton to have omitted a small factor in the increased section of the muscles of the neck in fat men. The matter, if an unpleasant one, still needed scientific investigation as a death by beheadingwhich in one case occurred-was not carrying out the sentence of the law.


1 All universities ought to take periodic stock of their examiners in the manner suggested. I have no hesitation in asserting that in many cases the success or failure of candidates is not a measure of their intelligence, but of their choice of subject and still more of the particular examiner in that subject who has marked their script.

2 Nature, Vol. LVII, p. 79, November 25, 1897.