Francis Galton

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Galton, Francis


Born Feb. 16, 1822, in Birmingham; died Jan. 17, 1911, in London. English psychologist and anthropologist.

After receiving an education in medicine and biology, Galton began his scientific career in geography and meteorology. Statistical analysis of the weather maps that he plotted enabled Galton to discover anticyclones and to explain them theoretically. Galton’s anthropological research received practical application in criminology, in particular in dactylography. The publication of The Origin of Species (1859) by his cousin, C. Darwin, was a turning point in Galton’s career. Under the influence of this book Galton introduced into psychology and anthropology the idea of heredity, with which he tried to explain people’s individual traits. Galton’s research in psychology focused on the problem of the genetic preconditions for the development of psychophysical characteristics and abilities in man—how they are conditioned by heredity. This research laid the foundations for differential psychology. Galton invented a number of devices to measure psychophysical features, including Galton’s whistle to measure auditory sensitivity. He was one of the first to carry out experiments on the mental processes of association and the memory of images. His study of the psychological makeup of a large group of English men of science was the first experimental analysis of the personality of the man of science. Galton developed methods for diagnosing ability that marked the beginning of aptitude testing. He devised methods for the statistical processing of the results of research, in particular, the method of calculating correlations between variables. He also worked on the technique of mass canvass by questionnaire. Upon analyzing the factors of heredity, Galton came to the conclusion that it was necessary to introduce eugenics. The limitations of Galton’s views in psychology were evident in his concept of the predetermination of the intellectual achievements of a person by his genetic resources. The reactionary political character of his views revealed itself in his attempt to present the masses as biologically inferior.


Hereditary Genius. London, 1869.
English Men of Science, Their Nature and Nurture. London, 1874.
Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development. London, 1883.


Eksperimental’naia psikhologiia. Edited by P. Fraisse and J. Piaget. Moscow, 1966. Chapter 2. (Translated from French.)
Iaroshevskii, M. G. Istoriia psikhologii. Moscow, 1966. Chapter 2.
Boring, E. G. A History of Experimental Psychology, 2nd ed. New York, 1929.