Sir Francis Galton

On this date in 1822, Sir Francis Galton was born in England. The grandson of Erasmus Darwin, he was educated in mathematics at Cambridge. An inheritance in 1844 left him free to travel widely. He became a famous explorer, writing several books about his travels in Syria, Egypt and southwest Africa. In 1863 he became general secretary of the British Association and published a book on weather mapping. His Hereditary Genius was published in 1865. Galton coined the term "eugenics," defining it very differently from its current meaning. Galton founded a eugenics research fellowship and chair at University College. Galton's impressive study, "Statistical Inquiries into the Efficacy of Prayer," was first published in the Aug. 1, 1872, issue of Fortnightly View. Galton charmingly showed how royalty, the most-prayed-for people in the world, "are literally the shortest lived" of the affluent. Galton observed: "It is a common week-day opinion of the world that praying people are not practical." He made scholarly contributions to fields as diverse as fingerprinting and psychology. D. 1911.

"Your book drove away the constraint of my old superstition, as if it had been a nightmare."

—Sir Francis Galton, letter to Darwin, recorded in Life and Letters of F. Galton (1914)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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