Recognized HTML document
Previous Index Next

368   Life and Letters of Francis Galton Correspondence of 1909.

7, WELL ROAD, HAMPSTEAD, N.W. Jan. 3, 1909.

MY DEAR FRANCIS GALTON, I had intended to write a line sending every best- wish of the New Year to Miss Biggs and yourself, but letters don't get written when they are of the type which one writes for pleasure! I have just got the last bit of copy of the next issue of Biometrika to press. It will be rather a fighting number I fear; but it runs from opsonins to cocks' combs and tadpoles' blood-corpuscles and so ought to be of general interest. I enclose the first forty pages of the memoir on Vision to be published in the Eugenics Laboratory series. I fear you will find it dull reading, but it means nearly a year's work on Miss Barrington's part. She insists on my adding my name to hers, but she has done the real "grind " of it, and I am only responsible for the direction of the work and more or less putting it into form. I think it opens up almost virgin soil, and ought to attract some notice. Your suggestion as to apparently small causes affecting the fertility of populations would no doubt form an excellent topic for an essay, but it would demand a long period of careful collection and investigation. One instance I can cite for you. Before the passing of the Factory Acts children were a valuable commodity in Bradford. Their parents are said to have nurtured them well and taken great care of them; they strove to have a good supply, because they were a source of revenue. Since the passing of the Acts, a child hardly contributes to the family income before he starts his own establishment. He does not repay his cost of nurture. The result has been that mechanical checks to conception and abortion are rife in Bradford; there is a general decline in the birth-rate, and the child is looked upon as a burden.

I am planning a great change in my work of the next half year which may possibly come off. I have asked for a holiday for six months, on the grounds : (i) that I have been feeling inert and below par, and (ii) that the arrears of research work are so great, that nothing can get finished. I have not had a real holiday since my marriage tour, eighteen years ago, and, I think, the College may be willing to permit it now, for the grant for the Biometric Laboratory from the Drapers' Company expires this year, and it is desirable to have a good show of completed research work with a view to its renewal. If my request be granted I shall have no elementary teaching of any kind. I shall be a " half-timer " at College, spending my afternoons with the research students and with them only, while I devote my mornings to polishing off arrears of work, so that in the summer I can take a complete holiday.. I hope this will be a restorative. But as one gets older the tissues don't seem to respond to rest in the old way. I now seem to understand better why so many men give up research work for attending committees at 50. Even retire and sell their working tools like Huxley !

Still I am going to look upon my six months as a restorative to pristine vigour-until at least I have shown it won't work. Affectionately, KARL PEARSON.


MY DEAR KARL PEARSON, The probability of your receiving a half-year's remission will be grateful news to all your friends, for you are by now dangerously over-worked, I feel sure. What a solid piece of work that is on the Inheritance of Vision. It bears on its face the mark of a full year's labour. You did not ask me to return the paper so I do not. I shall be eager for a postcard to tell me that the half-year's relaxation is fixed. Pray send one' when it is so. Yesterday, Charles Galton Darwin, the mathematical son of Sir George, lunched and spent some hours with me. His fate will be decided in June, just about the date of the Darwin Centenary. If he gets the Senior Wranglership-the last that can be got-it will be delightful. He is very bright and capable looking, but too modest to be bothered with questions about his chances, which, as I hear from many quarters, are good but not certain.

Your instance of the Bradford birth-rate being affected through an Act of Parliament is very instructive. From time to time other more or less similar instances will be noted, especially as to the effect of changes in purely social usages.

I am- just living on, capable of very little useful work, but very comfortable, and having everything to be grateful for that can reasonably be expected now that the winter fogs are ceasing. Ever affectionately yours, FRANCIS GALTON.

Previous Index Next