Recognized HTML document
Previous Index Next

Eugenics as a Creed and the Last Decade of Galton's Life 221

I quite understand now (I think) your point, and to a great extent agree with it. But what are we humans to do, if any "eugenic " progress is attempted `G We can't mate men and women as we please, like cocks and hens, but we could I think gradually evolve some plan by which there would be a steady though slow amelioration of the human breed ; the aim being to increase the contributions of the more valuable classes of the population and to diminish the converse. We now want better criteria than we have of which is which.

Do what we can (within reasonable limits as regards mankind), fraternal variability will never be much lessened; but I do think that the fraternal means might on the whole be raised.

That is the problem, as it seems to me, to be held in view ; also that an exact knowledge of the true principles of heredity would hardly help us in its practical solution.

I do indeed fervently hope that exact knowledge may be gradually attained and established beyond question, and I wish you and your collaborators all success in your attempts to obtain it.

Very faithfully yours, FRANCIS GALTON.

Do you want your cobs of maize back 1

This letter is of great importance ; it indicates that Galton had in view only a " steady though slow amelioration of the human breed"; but it further shows that in his opinion the exact mechanism of heredity, even if we could find it out, was not of the highest importance. As an evolutionist he saw mass-changes taking place, and he recognised that the statistical solution is the one that has most importance for the eugenist. His statement that fraternal variability-by which he certainly meant heritable variability-will never be much lessened, is one with which I should personally agree, but the reader must remember that it cuts at the root of the " pure line " hypothesis*, and must not pass over its significance for Galton's own views. His remark also that the fraternal means might on the whole be raised suggests that the work of the biometricians had convinced him before 1904 that there was not a continuous regression of a selected group to the population mean ; and that sports were not essential to progress.

(3) Definition of Eugenics. We have already seen that the term "Eugenics" was introduced by Galton in 1883 into his Inquiry into Human Faculty. See our Vol. ii, pp. 249 ftn., 251, 252. Romanes in a review in Naturet of Galton's Record of Family Faculties and Life History Album in the following year (1884) uses the term "Eugenics" thrice and in one case speaks of the " science of Eugenics." " Mr Galton," he also tells us, " is indefatigable in his zeal to promote the cause of Eugenics." Thus born in 1883, the term had come into an accepted use in 1884.

Before we turn to Galton's propagandist lectures it is well to consider the definition of Eugenics. In 1883 Galton had defined Eugenics as the science of improving stock, not only by judicious mating, but by all the influences which give the more suitable strains a better chance. In 1904 Galton determined to take a step forward in his purpose by founding a research fellowship in National Eugenics, and addressed the following letter to the Principal of the University of London, Sir Arthur Riicker. This letter

The reader mayconsult "A New Theory of Progressive Evolution" by the present biographer in the recently issued Vol. Iv, Part i, of the Annals of Eugenics, published by the Galton Laboratory ; it contains a discussion of the present position of the " pure line" hypothesis.

t Vol. xxix, p. 257, January 17, 1884.

Previous Index Next