Sir Francis Galton (16 February 1822 – 17 January 1911), cousin of Sir Douglas Galton,half-cousin of Charles Darwin, was an English Victorian polymath,anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, psychometrician, and statistician. He was knighted in 1909.
Galton had a prolific intellect, and produced over 340 papers and books throughout his lifetime. He also created the statistical concept of correlation and widely promoted regression toward the mean. He was the first to apply statistical methods to the study of human differences and inheritance of intelligence, and introduced the use of questionnaires and surveys for collecting data on human communities, which he needed for genealogical and biographical works and for his anthropometric studies. He was a pioneer in psychometrics (the science of measuring mental faculties) and differential psychology. He devised a method for classifying fingerprints that proved useful in forensic science. As the initiator of scientific meteorology, he devised the first weather map, proposed a theory of anticyclones, and was the first to establish a complete record of short-term climatic phenomena on a European scale. He also invented the Galton Whistle for testing differential hearing ability.
The publication by his cousin Charles Darwin of he Origin of Species in 1859 was an event that changed Galton's life. He came to be gripped by the work, especially the first chapter on "Variation under Domestication" concerning the breeding of domestic animals. An interesting fact, not widely known, is that Galton was present to hear the famous 1860 Oxford evolution debate at the British Association. The evidence for this comes from his wife Louisa's Annual Record for 1860.
Galton devoted much of the rest of his life to exploring variation in human populations and its implications, at which Darwin had only hinted. In doing so, he eventually established a research programme which embraced many aspects of human variation, from mental characteristics to height, from facial images to fingerprint patterns. This required inventing novel measures of traits, devising large-scale collection of data using those measures, and in the end, the discovery of new statistical techniques for describing and understanding the data.
Galton was interested at first in the question of whether human ability was hereditary, and proposed to count the number of the relatives of various degrees of eminent men. If the qualities were hereditary, he reasoned, there should be more eminent men among the relatives than among the general population. He obtained his data from various biographical sources and compared the results that he tabulated in various ways. This pioneering work was described in detail in his book in 1869. He showed, among other things, that the numbers of eminent relatives dropped off when going from the first degree to the second degree relatives, and from the second degree to the third. He took this as evidence of the inheritance of abilities. He also proposed adoption studies, including trans-racial adoption studies, to separate out the effects of heredity and environment.
Information for this page came from the Wikipedia page on Francis Galton.
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