Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 59.djvu/451

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A STUDY OF BRITISH GENIUS.

A STUDY OF BRITISH GENIUS.
By HAVELOCK ELLIS.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS.

WE have now examined all those characteristics of the most eminent British persons of intellectual ability which the 'Dictionary of National Biography' enables us to investigate in a fairly generalized manner. We have found that, excluding the living, at least 902 persons (859 men and 43 women) of such preeminent ability have appeared in the British Islands between the fourth and the end of the nineteenth centuries, the century richest in genius being, so far as we can trace, the eighteenth. We have found that, in regard to distribution among the various elements of nationality, England seems to have her fair proportion of eminent persons, Scotland an excess, Ireland and Wales a deficiency, though Ireland and Wales profit considerably among those cases in which there has been intermixture; the only important foreign strain is derived from France. We have found that, as regards social class, the upper and upper middle classes have been peculiarly rich in genius, that the country and small towns have chiefly yielded notable men, and that of all professions the clergy have produced by far the greatest number of distinguished children. Our inquiry, further, confirms the views of Galton and others that intellectual ability is to some extent hereditary, though it may well be that different kinds of ability are not all equally apt to be transmissible. We have found that persons of genius, like the members of other mentally abnormal groups, tend to belong to unusually large families, are much oftener youngest children, and still more eldest children, than in any intermediate position, and that, much more frequently than in the case of the ordinary population, they are the offspring of elderly parents. These eminent persons, we have seen, have in a notable number of instances showed remarkably feeble health during infancy and childhood (being in many cases the only surviving children of large families) but have tended to become more robust as they grew older, and they have been notably precocious. Though not generally subjected to very strenuous intellectual training, they have usually enjoyed excellent opportunities for intellectual development; the majority were at some university; a very large proportion possessed extended opportunities for studying life in foreign lands during youth or early manhood. There is a marked tendency to a celibate life, and marriage when it