Correlation and Application of Statistics to Problems of Heredity 131
As an example of many others of the suggested experiments, take the first, viz. that of plants in windy & in still localities. Suppose (1) there was a difference in the seedlings from them, then the advocates of non-inheritance of acquired faculties would protest against its applicability saying that there had been selection, the lofty plants & the wide spreading ones would have been preferentially blown down and the weakly ones would have been killed by the rigour of conditions, therefore there had been selection in favour of the small & hardy. Now suppose (2) that there was no difference,-then the same people would say " I told you so." The expt would be for them a case of "heads you lose, tails I win."
Next, to produce any notable effect the expt must, as agreed by all, be protracted for many generations.
Lastly, nature affords an abundance of excellent examples, far superior to artificial ones. Thus take an (elevated) region swept with winds but with hollows in it which are sheltered and all of which is forest clad. The trees in the sheltered hollows will have been from time immemorial finer than those of the same kinds of the exposed places; collect the seeds and plant them under like conditions elsewhere.
During a (Swiss) tour a man might collect an abundance of such seeds of contrasted origin of many species of trees. Even a morning's walk would afford more data than a century of artificial experiment.
So again the seeds of plants originally of English stock but reared for some generations in various parts of the world might be collected and planted side by side. [The last is Thiselton-Dyer's proposal.]
The only certain employment in the plant department of your proposed farm is to make experiments such as these, or rather, to verify in a regular methodical way much that is known already, including expts on the opposite side such as graft-hybridism.
Dyer says that no experimental work is likely to succeed at such places as Kew in the ordinary course of work, where careful oversight is required. The men have much other work to do. It would require a man to be specially devoted to its oversight.
The animal experiments seem to be enormously costly.
The case you mention of hybrids & sterility would require many hundreds of animals at the lowest of the computations you give data for. Where the effects of disuse are concerned the animals should be, as a rule, underfed as regards their appetites and only eat just enough to keep them in health; then as there is a deficiency of material for growth, economy of structure would be effective. This would be very difficult to ensure. Some of the most interesting experiments are those of the Brown-Sequard type, but these must be put out of court in the present mood of the public & of the law.
Is not the bird nesting experiment continually the unconscious subject of experiment in those fowls who have been hatched from eggs in incubators?
Did you happen to see some remarks I made at Newcastle British Assoc/n, which are printed in the last Journal but one l
I suggested expts on those creatures which are reared from eggs apart from parents. Chickens in incubators, fish, & insects. The incubator industry is large in France & so is the silk-worm. But the naturalists present seemed not inclined to dwell on those views*.
Could anything be made of the following
A farm for the verification of easy experiments, within easy reach of London. Cordial relations between it and
(1) The Zoo., the Horticult., Kew, & Royal Agricult. Society.
(2) Private persons of various ranks who would agree to help in expts. Library of reference on heredity got mostly by begging. Lob book of daily work preserved (l in duplicate).
Publication of results in some one of the existing Scientific periodicals. Superintendent (qualifications & Salary to be considered). All under a c/ttee (I of the Royal Society).
In all this I am keeping the Kew Observatory in view as a somewhat analogous institution.
But before anything could be done, even before asking for its serious consideration, a few carefully and fully worked out proposals of experiment ought I think to be drawn up. I mean just as much as would have been done if the proposer handed them in to the Govt Grant or other committee, for a grant of money. Very sincerely yours, FRANCIS GALTON.
* See our p. 57 above.