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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/171

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PROBABILITY. THE FOUNDATION OF EUGENICS

PROBABILITY, THE FOUNDATION OF EUGENICS[1]
By FRANCIS GALTON, F.R.S.

LONDON

THE request so honorable to myself, to be the Herbert Spencer lecturer of this year, aroused a multitude of vivid recollections. Spencer's strong personality, his complete devotion to a self-imposed and life-long task, together with rare gleams of tenderness visible amidst a wilderness of abstract thought, have left a unique impression on my mind that years fail to weaken.

I do not propose to speak of his writings; they have been fully commented on elsewhere, but I desire to acknowledge my personal debt to him, which is large. It lies in what I gained through his readiness to discuss any ideas I happened to be full of at the time, with quick sympathy and keen criticism. It was his custom for many afternoons to spend an hour or two of rest in the old smoking room of the Athenæum Club, strolling into an adjoining compartment for a game of billiards when the table was free. Day after day on those afternoons I enjoyed brief talks with him, which were often of exceptional interest to myself. All that kind of comfort and pleasure has long ago passed from me. Among the many things of which age deprives us, I regret few more than the loss of contemporaries. When I was young I felt diffident in the presence of my seniors, partly owing to a sense that the ideas of the young can not be in complete sympathy with those of the old. Now that I myself am old it seems to me that my much younger friends keenly perceive the same difference, and I lose much of that outspoken criticism which is an invaluable help to all who investigate.

 

History of Eugenics

It must have surprised you as it did myself to find the new word "Eugenics" in the title both of the Boyle lecture, delivered in Oxford about a fortnight ago, and of this. It was an accident, not a deliberate concurrence, and I accept it as a happy omen. The field of eugenics is so wide that there is no need for myself, the second lecturer, to plant my feet in the footsteps of the first; on the contrary, it gives freedom by absolving me from saying much that had to be said in one way or another. I fully concur in the views so ably presented by my friend and co-adjutor Professor Karl Pearson, and am glad to be dispensed from further allusion to subjects that formed a large portion


  1. The Herbert Spencer lecture delivered at Oxford University on June 5, 1907.