POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
|A STUDY OF BRITISH GENIUS.|
IT is scarcely necessary to remark that nationality and race, when used as distinguishing marks of people who all belong to the British Islands, are not identical terms and are both vague. The races—however we may describe them—constituting the people of Great Britain are to be found in all the main divisions of the two islands, and the fact that a man is English or Scotch or Irish tells us nothing positive as to his race. Some indication of race, however, is in many cases furnished if we know the particular district to which a man's ancestors belonged, and this indication is further strengthened if we can ascertain his physical type.
In endeavoring to ascertain the ancestral roots of these eminent men I have almost entirely discarded the evidence of birthplace; so far as possible I have sought to find where a man's four grandparents belonged; if they are known to belong to four different regions it is then necessary to insert him into four groups; when the evidence is less complete he plays a correspondingly smaller part in the classification. It very rarely happens that the four grandparents can all be positively located.
I find that 76.8 per cent, of eminent British men and women are English, 15 per cent. Scotch, 5.3 per cent. Irish and 2.9 per cent. Welsh. The proportion of English is very large, but if we take the present population as a basis of estimation it fairly corresponds to England's share; this is not so, however, as regards the other parts of the United Kingdom; Wales, and especially Ireland, have too few people of genius, while Scotland has produced decidedly more than her share.
- For an admirable and lucid summary of the present position of this question see Ripley's 'Races of Europe', ch. xii.
- In a recent careful study ('Where We Get Our Best Men,' London, 1900,) Mr. A. H. H. Maclean has shown that of some 2,500 British persons of ability belonging to the nineteenth century 70 per cent, are English, 18 per cent. Scotch, 10 per cent. Irish, and 2 per cent. Welsh. We thus find that by taking a much lower standard of ability and confining ourselves to the most recent period, Scotland stands higher than ever, while Ireland benefits very greatly at the expense of both England and Wales. This is probably not altogether an unexpected result. It is on the whole confirmed by an analysis of British 'Men of the Time,' made by Dr. Conan Doyle ('Nineteenth Century,' Aug., 1888).