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A Life of Sir Francis Galton : From African Exploration to the Birth of Eugenics - Nicholas Wright Gillham

A Life of Sir Francis Galton

From African Exploration to the Birth of Eugenics

Hardcover

Published: 1st December 2001
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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 may well prove to be the definitive biography of the British explorer, a cousin and contemporary of Charles Darwin. Gillham, emeritus professor of biology at Duke University, offers an elegant and complete portrait comparable to Janet Browne's acclaimed life of Darwin."--Publishers Weekly "A detailed intellectual portrait of a complex and creative scientist who nevertheless embodied the morals and principles of an eminent Victorian English gentleman."--Kirkus Reviews "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 "A fascinating portrait.... There is much to admire in this book. To his credit, Gillham has returned to the extensive Galton archive and reconstructed his subject's life afresh."--Science "This may well prove to be the definitive biography of the British explorer, a cousin and contemporary of Charles Darwin. Gillham, emeritus professor of biology at Duke University, offers an elegant and complete portrait comparable to Janet Browne's acclaimed life of Darwin."--Publishers Weekly "Francis Galton was father to the modern doctrine of eugenics, but he was also, as Nicholas Gillham emphasizes in this highly readable biography, an eminent Victorian scientist of remarkably diverse interests and accomplishments.... A compelling narrative of Galton's life."--American Scientist "A detailed intellectual portrait of a complex and creative scientist who nevertheless embodied the morals and principles of an eminent Victorian English gentleman."--Kirkus Reviews "This generally engaging history of science is capped by tracing the origins of eugenics issues that haunt us today.... Timely, since human genetics is now in the news."--Booklist "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 "This is the third biography of Francis Galton to be published, and a very good one it is too."--JAMA, January 2002

ISBN: 9780195143652
ISBN-10: 0195143655
Audience: General
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 428
Published: 1st December 2001
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 24.4 x 16.5  x 3.4
Weight (kg): 0.78