[Francis Galton: Private circular for the "Committee on the Measurement of Plants and Animals", 1896, reprinted in Pearson, Life Volume IIIa (1930): 132-3]
The Committee appointed by the Royal Society, for the Measurement of Plants and Animals, proposes to hold an informal meeting at the Royal Society, on Friday, December 4th, at 4 p.m., which they hope you will favour with your presence.
The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the propriety of asking aid from the Council of the Royal Society in establishing and maintaining a Biological Farm, to supply materials (mostly zoological) appropriate to the investigations on which the Committee is occupied, and for undertaking experiments in breeding during many successive generations for the use of those who study the causes and conditions of Evolution.
The general idea that such a Farm would fulfil, somewhat resembles that which was present to the founders of the physical Institute known as the "Kew Observatory," which has been for many years under a Committee of Management appointed by the Council of the Royal Society. It was to procure a place where investigators could have experiments carried on at their own cost, subject, of course, to the permission of the Committee of Management, the cost being, in most cases, defrayed out of grants in aid to the investigators, made by the Royal Society or by the British Association.
It is likely that a farm-house with 20 acres of suitably varied land, and some running water, would amply suffice, so long as the experiments were chiefly confined to small animals. The farm would be in the charge of a resident caretaker under the direct authority of a scientific superior, who might hold the office of Secretary to the Committee of Management. It would be his duty to see that their instructions were duly carried out.
Independently of the farm, and perhaps preliminary to the attempt to raise money for its maintenance, the suggested Committee could accomplish a very important service in a similar direction, for the performance of which it is believed that funds would be immediately available. That is, they might communicate with persons, many of high social position, who are breeders on a large scale in their own grounds, thereby initiating a widely spread system of co-operation in carrying out experiments desired by the Committee. It is not to be expected that the several results would be equally trustworthy with those made under specially trained management as in the proposed farm. On the other hand, whenever it was found that similar experiments made simultaneously at many different places led to the same results, those results would eminently deserve confidence. The incidental advantage of interesting influential persons in the work of the Committee would be great.
The cost of the complete scheme does not seem likely to be very formidable. It would be chiefly made up of the rental of the farm, the erection of enclosures, hutches, etc., the small initial cost of the animals, their feed, and the wages of the caretaker and assistants. The salary of the Secretary need not at first be large, since the duties of the office would not then be so onerous as to prevent his holding other appointments.
The meeting will be asked to consider this scheme, amending and altering it as desirable, to discuss its cost, and the ways of meeting that cost. If, after this, the prevalent feeling should be in favour of further proceedings, the meeting might appoint an Executive Committee, not consisting exclusively 'of Fellows of the Royal Society, to examine the subject closely in its various details, to consider the precise experiments that Might be first undertaken, and to report to an adjourned meeting.
(Chairman of the Committee of the Royal Society for the Measurement of Plants and Animals).
42, RUTLAND GATE, S.W.
November 30th, 1896.