Recognized HTML document
Previous Index Next

330   Life and Letters of Francis Galton

subject to Sir Edward Brabrook who is the chief working authority of the R. Soc. of Literature, to enlist his interest and to get advice. Geikie and I did form a provisional scheme of action.

This house, Quedley, really is not cold. Nettleship, who was here yesterday, and whom I asked, found no fault with its situation. The valley fogs do not as yet reach it, while I hear great complaints of cold and fog at Hindhead. In fact I really think I have fallen upon the most suitable house in the whole place, for my particular needs.

I am now busy, as long as I can work, day by day, over my " Reminiscences." It is curious how the sense of "past" disappears. All my life from 5 years to 85 is beginning to seem to me "present," like a picture on the wall. Ever affectionately yours, FRANCIS GALTON.

7, WELL ROAD, HAMPSTEAD, N.W. December 30, 1907.

MY DEAR FRANCIS GALTON, I am very glad my alarm about the cold at Quedley is false. I certainly did not mean to disturb you needlessly. It was only my short experience of the valley some way above Shottermill where we had a house for four weeks.

I should rather like to talk over the point of scientific literature with you, because I think there is danger of two distinct factors being confused. In the first place every paper ought to be written in lucid English. With this I am the more in sympathy, because I realise to the full my own difficulties in this matter. We want far more essay writing from the science student, although this must not be driven to the Oxford extent of making the discovery of fitting words the main occupation of the student. On the other hand every science must have its special terminology, and its symbolism and short-hand. These can be interpreted into long-hand and simple English in popular lectures and reviews, but in the scientific memoir written for a scientificly educated public the terminology and short-hand of the special branch of science concerned must be preserved for the brevity and lucidity they provide. You might, I think, as well demand of a mathematician a definition and explanation of dy/dx in a Phil. Trans. paper as ask in a scientific memoir on heredity for an explanation of the fundamental equations

(DD) x (RR) = 2 (DR), (DR) x (DR) = (DD) + 2 (DR) + (RR)

of Mendelism. This symbolism is now known and accepted by all students of heredity whether they believe in Mendelian theory or not. Similarly such terms as " somatic " and "gametic " are to be found in every biological textbook. When therefore the Tribune cites such things as these and calls them "jargon," it is merely stating that its writer was incompetent to review the memoir because he was ignorant of the terminology of the branch of science he was discussing.

This is quite apart from the possible want of lucidity of the English, or from any demand for a popular exposition of the results reached by more elaborate memoirs. These may be desiderata, but they are not to be confused with a mere absence of scientific terminology : and I think we have now reached an epoch when the popular exposition of heredity should be taken more fully into consideration.

In February it will be a year since our regime began, and the appointments of Mr Heron and Miss Elderton will come up for consideration, as well as my own relations to the Laboratory. I feel my own limitations very keenly, and it might well be that other supervision would give the scheme more go and a more popular character. I need hardly say that I am ready to fall in entirely with your views, either to make way for a man of more leisure and activity, perhaps more in touch with the outside world, or to go on as we have been doing for one year more. As for the Galton Fellow and Scholar, I think we ought to give them some notion as to the future. The Fellow has done good work, but has not at present quite as much initiative as I shall look for later; the Scholar has much impressed me, and is even more able than I anticipated. Taking the difficulty of finding new and efficient workers, I think we shall not readily find better instruments even if we agree that they need a more active guide. If you agree, there ought to be some report to the University and perhaps a meeting of your Committee. I will very readily draft something, if you will quite frankly send your views on the immediate future. Whatever is done now ought to be done so as to terminate definitely in February, 1909. I think the present people are too good for one year only of work, but they ought to understand that you may want to remodel the Laboratory scheme in 1909.

Have you considered the possibility of resuming the reins yourself this year? I only came in default of any obviously better person to supply your place, and I am only a locum tenens ready to move on when you say the word. Affectionately, KARL PEARSON.

Previous Index Next