464 Life and Letters of Francis Galton
June 4, 1875.
DEAR MRS HERTZ*, Fechner's Elements der Psychophysik, Leipsic, 1860 (Breitkopf and Hartel) is a 2 vol. 8° containing in the aggregate 1000 pages, not very closely printed. It is a thoroughly standard work and lays the foundations of a new science which is beginning to attract serious attention in Belgium, France, America and England. In Belgium, Delboeuf's memoir upon it in the Acad. Roy. last (1) year (reprinted in a separate pamphlet by F. Hayez, Brussels) shows the primary importance of the work, though Delboeuf criticises and pushes the investigation a step further. In France, Ribot has lately been an exponent of Fechner's, or rather of Delboeuf's, views in a slight article in the Revue Scientifique. In America, Nipher (or one of his set) has recently been referring to him in Nature t and in England Sully in his papers in the Fortnightly, recently republished as a separate volume on "Intuition" (1 exact title), renders full justice to Fechner. A mass of work by Arago, Herschel, and various astronomers, falls in as a part of the wide generalisations of Fechner, and much criticism and recognition of him will be found in Helmholtz. Therefore though the work dates as far back as 1860, it must rank practically as a new book, and the reading world is only now prepared to recognise its merits. Its object is, in a few words, to show that one fundamental law connects the amount of sensation (in the widest sense of the word) with the magnitude of the exciting cause. The generalisations are exceedingly curious and the experiments upon which the law is founded are most delicate and ingenious. The very science of such experiments, suitable for other applications, is laid down in the book and is one of the valuable parts of it. Fechner modestly ascribes the discovery of the law to his old master, Wagner, but it is Fechner who, by the admission of all who know about the matter, is practically the founder, exponent and establisher of the law. I should be heartily glad if an English publisher were to bring his work out in translation, believing that it would interest many scientific men and introduce a new and much needed branch of scientific investigation into England.
Very faithfully yours, FRANCIS GALTON.
42, RUTLAND GATE, S.W. November 18, 1875.
MY DEAR BESSY, Overleaf is the prescription and description. I heartily hope it may also succeed with you. The merits of this, compared with what-I have had before, lie principally in the opium and in the absence of spirits of wine, etc. Those dulled the ear and disagreed with it; this does not, but is bland. After putting it in, of course the hearing becomes more defective as the wax is softened and plugs the ear effectively; but when the time comes for syringing the wax is all driven away quite easily. No forcible syringing is wanted but you can't do it properly yourself, you must have a gentle surgeon. Heroic surgeons (like Pritchard) assassinate the ear. Mem. Hamlet's uncle murdered his brother by dropping hellebore into his ear; I protest against being hung, if any ill effects follow my prescribing opium to be dropped into my sister's ear.
What a happy and moist time Edward I is having in Devonshire. Many loves.
Affectionately yours, FRANCIS GALTON.
Galton was very fond of prescribing on the basis of his early medical experience.
To GEORGE DARWIN, ESQ., TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE. May 2, 1876.
[Post-card] What a very interesting memoir you have sent me. It does one good to read about such large subjects. I wonder if the conditions of a nebula shedding a satellite could be illustrated by a whirling drop spluttering off, as shown and analysed by that curious method by which (in the last but one (1) number of the Proceedings of the Royal Society) the successive shapes assumed by a drop of water splashing down on a plate were investigated.
My wife is going on quite comfortably, and gaining strength, but Sir J. Paget, who saw her last Saturday, confirms all that Dr Chepmell has said. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof! FRANCIS GALTON. 42, RUTLAND GATE.
* Mrs Hertz was a lady, who established a "scientific salon," and it flourished from 1865 onwards. On her death letters to her from Huxley, Galton, Clifford, etc. were sold to booksellers, the above and others being purchased by the Galton Laboratory.
t See May 20, 1875.
Galton's nephew, sister Bessy's son, Edward Wheler.