364 Life and Letters of Francis Galton
Oxford Herbert Spencer Lecture*. For further details of its history the reader must consult Galton's letters of this year. The preface runs:
"In my ' Herbert Spencer' lecture of 1907 before the University of Oxford, I expressed a belief that the elementary ideas on which the modern system of statistics depends, that the quality of the results to which it leads, and that the meaning of the uncouth words used in its description, admitted of much simpler explanation than usual. I sketched out a possible course of lectures to be accompanied with certain simple sortings, with object lessons and with diagrams. Finally, I expressed the hope that some competent teacher would elaborate a course of instruction on these lines. I entertain a strong belief that such a course would be of great service to those who are interested in statistics, but who, from want of mathematical aptitude and special study, are unable to comprehend the results arrived at, even as regards their own subjects. It is, for example, a great hindrance to have no knowledge of what is meant by 'correlation.'
"I learnt with much pleasure that two very competent persons were disposed to undertake the task-namely, Mr W. Palin Elderton, well known as a highly instructed actuary, and his sister, Miss Ethel M. Elderton, who holds the post of Research Scholar in the Eugenics Laboratory of the University of London (now located in University College), and who is a thoroughly experienced worker in the modern methods.
"This primer is the result. It goes forth on its important errand of familiarising educated persons with the most recent developments of the new school of statistics, and, I beg to be allowed to add, with my heartiest good wishes for its success."
(iv) Galton was much interested in the course of this year in the asserted Deterioration of the British Race, and in the Report of the Commission on that subject. The problem was essentially a statistical one, but the evidence given before the Commission was largely that of witnesses without any statistical sense, who gave merely their opinions and impressions based too often on narrowly local or inadequately transitory observations'. Above all other problems Galton had selected that of the segregation of the mentally defective as a field in which something might be achieved at once. He was roused especially by any appeal to an individual case as confuting
a statistical average. Such an appeal drew from him a letter to The Times of June 18th in this year
Sir,-A specious inference was drawn yesterday, in a speech by Lord Halsbury at the luncheon given to Lieutenant Shackleton by the Royal Societies Club. He said (I quote from your report) that : " in view of what Mr Shackleton had gone through it was impossible to believe in the supposed deterioration of the British race." But exceptional performances do not contradict the supposition in question. It is not that deterioration is so general that men of remarkably fine physique have ceased to exist-for they do, thank God-but that the bulk of the community is deteriorating, which it is, judging from results of inquiries into the teeth, hearing, eyesight and malformations of children in Board Schools, and from the apparently continuous increase of insanity and feeble-mindedness. Again the popularity of athletic sports proves little, for it is one thing to acclaim successful athletes, which any mob of weaklings can do,-as at a cricket match,-it is quite another thing to be an athlete oneself.
42, RUTLAND GATE, S.W. June 16. FRANCIS GALTON.
* See p. 317 et seq. above. The little book has done extraordinarily well and has passed through several editions.
fi I feel bound to quote again here Galton's splendid aphorism of 1879 (see Vol. II, p. 297 above) : "General impressions are never to be trusted. Unfortunately when they are of long standing they become fixed rules of life, and assume a prescriptive right not to be questioned. Consequently those who are not accustomed to original inquiry entertain a hatred and a horror of statistics. They cannot endure the idea of submitting their sacred impressions to cold-blooded verification."