Sir Francis Galton was a British polymath whose diverse fields of study include topics such as meteorology, eugenics, statistics, geography and psychology. He was born in England in 1822 to a well-off family of bankers and gun makers He was a half cousin to famous naturalist Charles Darwin. As a child, Galton was extremely smart and quickly grew tired of his classwork. While earning his masters from Cambridge University he became engrossed with traveling and spent time all across eastern Europe and in the Middle East.
Life of Galton in 1850
In 1850 Galton joined the Royal Geographer’s Society where he undertook a two year expedition to explore southwest Africa, which was still largely unexplored at the time. Upon his return he wrote a fairly successful book about his expedition and won several awards for his work in both exploration and in geography, including the Gold Award from the Royal Geographer’s Society.
Life of Galton in 1850-1959 Meteorology
Between 1850 and 1859, Galton spent his time working in a great number of fields. One field he was especially notable in was meteorology. Galton developed some of the first weather maps based on air pressure. He also pioneered the theory of anticyclones, which are known today as high pressure areas. The discovery of anticyclones in conjunction with the previously known cyclones would later allow the development of modern weather maps.
Life of Galton in 1859 Statistics
In 1859 his half cousin Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, a book about the evolution of animal species. Galton became very interested in Darwin’s work and devoted many years to researching human populations. Galton collected vast amounts of data on human populations such as height, fingerprints and mental characteristics in order to analyze human populations. Because he was handling such a large amount of abstract data, Galton had to develop new techniques in statistics to handle his work. Statistical concepts he uncovered include regression towards the mean as well as correlation.
Francis Galton’s Work in Anthropology
The data he collected often was pioneering work in anthropology. Galton coined the term “nature versus nurture” and sent out 190 questionnaires to Fellows of the Royal Society members to determine if their interest in science was because of their genes or because of the way they were raised. Later, he turned his attention to twins and came to the conclusion that nature was more important than their nurturing.
His work studying anthropology lead him to the concept of improving society through breeding, also known as eugenics. Galton was the first to consider eugenics and its potential impacts on the world. Galton wrote the book Inquiries into Human Facult and its development which discussed his ideas for improving society’s genetics. His solution involved encouraging young couples ‘of good stock’ to marry and to have children by giving them money or other rewards.
Francis Galton’s Work in Genetics
Galton disagreed with Darwin’s theory that ‘gemmules’ traveled within the blood and were responsible for biological traits and devised a series of experiments where he swapped the blood of rabbits and studied them to see if their children had the traits of the biological parent, or the rabbit whose blood was transfused into the parent. Galton ended up being correct and Darwin countered by saying that he was misinterpreted and did not mean that the gemmules traveled within blood. Galton’s proto-genetics work nearly rediscovered Gregor Mendel’s work on inheritance which had been made in the last few decades
Francis Galton’s Work in Psychology
In 1880, Francis Galton’s work in psychology lead him to synesthesia, a condition where stimulation of one sensory pathway triggers involuntary stimulation of a second. There are many types of synesthesia, however a common form called color-graphemic synesthesia causes people to believe that numbers or letters are inherently colored. Galton was the first to document number forms. When the patients with synesthesia he researched thought of numbers, a number map – a graphical representation of a series of numbers – would appear in their head. His work also involved people with colored hearing; meaning that when they saw colors, they perceived a sound.