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124   Life and Letters of Francis Galton

it too hot to run to the hill, and facing the distant stand he watched the massed faces on theigrand stand before the race and just as the horses approached the winning post. The result of his observations was communicated to Nature*, and runs thus

The Average Flush of Excitement.

" I witnessed a curious instance of this on a large scale, which others may look out for on

similar occasions. It was at Epsom, on the Derby Day last week. I had taken my position not far from the starting-point, on the further side of the course, and facing the stands, which were about half a mile off, and showed a broad area of white faces. In the idle moments preceding the start I happened to scrutinise the general effect of this sheet of faces, both with the naked eye and through the opera-glass, thinking what a capital idea it afforded of the average tint of the complexion of the British upper classes. Then the start took place ; the magnificent group of horses thundered past in their fresh vigour and were soon out of sight, and there was nothing particular for me to see or do until they reappeared in the distance in front of the stands. So I again looked at the distant sheet of faces, and to my surprise found it was changed in appearance, being uniformly suffused with a strong pink tint, just as though a sun-set glow had fallen upon it. The faces being closely packed together and distant, each of them formed a mere point in the general effect. Consequently that effect was an averaged one, and owing to the consistency of all average results, it was distributed with remarkable uniformity. It faded

away steadily but slowly after the race was finished. F. G."

There is a notion still very current that gouty constitutions should avoid stoneless fruits, in particular strawberries. Galton's creed was that : "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." What about gout and that noble fruit the strawberry? Galton (as well as his biographer) had come across instances, wherein belief dominating desire, enforced asceticism, and so deprived the believer of much harmless pleasure, by dogmatically asserting harmful consequences. Judge of Galton's joy while reading the biography of Linnaeus, at discovering that the great naturalist, when the doctors failed to cure his gout, had got quit of his disease by large doses of strawberries ! Galton wrote in 1899 a letter to Nature j- on Linnaeus' strawberry cure for gout. One can see the twinkle in his eye as he looked from his writing table towards Harley Street.

"The season of strawberries is at hand, but doctors are full of fads, and for the most part

forbid them to the gouty. Let me put heart into those unfortunate persons to withstand a cruel medical tyranny by quoting the experience of the great Linnoeus....Why should gouty persons drink nasty waters at stuffy foreign spas, when strawberry gardens abound in

England 7"

A further characteristic letter appeared in Nature, December 20, 1906 {Vol. LXXV, p. 173) regarding the "Cutting a Round Cake on Scientific Principles." The problem to be solved was clearly a personal one for Sir Francis and his niece, who averaged a small cake every three days. "Given a round tea-cake of some 5 inches across and two persons of moderate appetite to eat it, in what way should it be cut so as to leave a minimum of exposed surface to become dry?" The accompanying diagram shows

* June 5, 1879 (Vol. xx, p. 121).

t June 8 (Vol. LX, p. 125). See D. H. Stoever, Life of Sir Charles Linnceus, 1794 (Eng. Trans.), p. 41.6.

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