114 Life and Letters of Francis Galton
Science. We cannot assume that the bulk of those who did not reply omitted to do so because their families presented no noteworthy members. We thus obtain no wholly trustworthy general picture of the frequency with which noteworthy men of science arise from noteworthy or commonplace families. Further in the 63 families dealt with as noteworthy we feel the definition is too arbitrary, several scarcely reach real distinction, and for those that do and are well worthy of record a trained genealogist could have given a truer picture and more interesting account of the family (with a pedigree chart!) from fairly accessible sources. We have indeed no certainty that our sample is a "random" one. Galton in hisPreface of xliii pages, which forms the more valuable part of the book, admits that the facts given are "avowedly bald and imperfect," but considers that they lead to certain important conclusions, for example he considers they show "that a considerable proportion of the noteworthy members in a population spring from -comparatively few families" (p. ix). This is very likely true, but it is difficult to accept it on evidence which does not indicate how many noteworthy persons there are in the population or how many we are to expect in a family, and deals only with what is probably not a truly random sample of even the men of science in the population, i.e. 63 out of a total which in 1914 was fixed at 1729 for the British Empire*.
Galton notes several important points, which may be of value as cautions to future circularisers. I cite some of them
"The questions were not unreasonably numerous, nor were they inquisitorial; nevertheless, it proved that not one-half of those addressed cared to answer them. It was, of course, desirable to know a great deal more than could have been asked for or published with propriety, such as the proneness of particular families to grave constitutional disease. Indeed the secret history of a family is quite as important in its eugenic aspect as its public history; but one cannot expect persons to freely unlock their dark closets and drag forth family skeletons into the light of day."
Galton accordingly only asked for information on points which " could be stated openly without the smallest offence to any of the persons concerned."
One matter astonished Galton; he found it extraordinarily difficult to obtain even for near kin the number of kinsfolk of each person in each specific degree of kinship. Sometimes the omission was no doubt due to oversight or inertia, but Galton was surprised to find in how many cases the number of near kin was avowedly unknown.
"Emigration, foreign service, feuds between near connections, differences of social position, faintness of family interest, each produced their several effects, with the result as I have reason to believe, that hardly one-half of the persons addressed were able, without first making inquiries of others, to reckon the number of their uncles, adult nephews, and first cousins. The isolation of some few from even their nearest relatives was occasionally so complete that the number of
their brothers was unknown." (pp. x-xi.)
Galton (p. xiii) states that he uses the epithet "noteworthy" to correspond in all branches of effort to that which would rank with an F.R.S. among scientific men. He considers that the term covers all those who appear in the Dictionary of National Biography, and about half those who appear in
* Who's Who in Science, 1914.