Sir Francis Galton
Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911) was a Victorian polymath, a scholar whose work spanned sociology, psychology, geography, and meteorology, in addition to his inventions and explorations. Galton, author of more than 340 books and papers, was also instrumental in the field of eugenics, coining the term “nature versus nurture. He was the first to apply mathematical statistics to the study of human differences.
Galton was born in Birmingham, a half-cousin to Charles Darwin. By many accounts he was a child prodigy, able to read some Latin and Greek by the age of five and Shakespeare by the age of 6. From 1840 to 1844 he studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge, before attempting to study medicine. In 1850 he joined the Royal Geographical Society, and led an expedition in Namibia.
Later, Galton became active in the British Association for the Advancement of Science, active in its leadership as well as for the Royal Geographical Society. The publication of Darwin’s The Origin of the Species marked a turning point for Galton, and spent much of the rest of his life studying human variations. One of his areas of interest was whether certain abilities, such as genius, were hereditary. Galton was knighted in 1909. Some of his later work included the classification of fingerprints. Galton’s eight categories of fingerprints is a system still in use today.