A new biography of Francis Galton, by Nicholas Wright Gillham, was published in November 2001 by Oxford University Press. The publisher's description is reproduced below. The book may be ordered from amazon.com.A Life of Sir Francis Galton
NICHOLAS WRIGHT GILLHAM
A vivid biography of the father of eugenics
Few scientists have made lasting contributions to as many fields as Francis Galton. He was an important African explorer, travel writer, and geographer. He was the meteorologist who discovered the anticyclone, a pioneer in using fingerprints to identify individuals, the inventor of regression and correlation analysis in statistics, and the founder of the eugenics movement. Now, Nicholas Gillham paints an engaging portrait of this Victorian polymath.
The book traces Galton's ancestry (he was the grandson of Erasmus Darwin and the cousin of Charles Darwin), upbringing, training as a medical apprentice, and experience as a Cambridge undergraduate. It recounts in colorful detail Galton's adventures as leader of his own expedition in Namibia. Darwin was always a strong influence on his cousin and a turning point in Galton's life was the publication of the Origin of Species. Thereafter, Galton devoted most of his life to human heredity, using then novel methods such as pedigree analysis and twin studies to argue that talent and character were inherited and that humans could be selectively bred to enhance these qualities. To this end, he founded the eugenics movement which rapidly gained momentum early in the last century. After Galton's death, however, eugenics took a more sinister path, as in the United States, where by 1913 sixteen states had involuntary sterilization laws, and in Germany, where the goal of racial purity was pushed to its horrific limit in the "final solution." Galton himself, Gillham writes, would have been appalled by the extremes to which eugenics was carried.
Here then is a vibrant biography of a remarkable scientist as well as a
superb portrait of science in the Victorian era.
"This is a superb biography, a rich tapestry that weaves the threads of Galton's energetic and productive life into the background of his culture and class, relatives and friends, travels and adventures. A hundred years ago came the rediscovery of Mendel and the beginning of modern genetics. It is altogether fitting that in this age of genomics we should rediscover Galton."--Daniel L. Hartl, Higgins Professor and Chairman, Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
"For better or worse, Francis Galton launched an astonishing theory of heredity into the public arena that has created debate ever since. Nicholas Gillham's fascinating study is based on extensive archival research and puts welcome flesh onto the bones of this highly unusual man who was a cousin of Charles Darwin's and a friend (or enemy) to many other eminent Victorians. Anyone interested in the way genes and the idea of heredity have seemingly taken over our lives will be delighted by this biography of one of the most significant founders of the field of genetics." --Janet Browne, Reader in the History of Biology at University College London, and author of Charles Darwin: Voyaging
"An elegant biography of a major British scientist and polymath. This book should become the standard account of Galton's life, and it also reveals much about the birth of psychology, biometry, genetics, and eugenics. Scientists, historians, and serious general readers will profit from reading it."--Kenneth M. Ludmerer, Professor of Medicine and History, Washington University, and author of Genetics and American Society, Learning to Heal, and Time to Heal