Sir Francis Galton and the birth of eugenics

Annu Rev Genet. 2001;35:83-101. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genet.35.102401.090055.


The eugenics movement was initiated by Sir Francis Galton, a Victorian scientist. Galton's career can be divided into two parts. During the first, Galton was engaged in African exploration, travel writing, geography, and meteorology. The second part began after he read the Origin of Species by his cousin Charles Darwin. The book convinced Galton that humanity could be improved through selective breeding. During this part of his career he was interested in the factors that determine what he called human "talent and character" and its hereditary basis. Consequently, he delved into anthropometrics and psychology and played a major role in the development of fingerprinting. He also founded the field of biometrics, inventing such familiar statistical procedures as correlation and regression analysis. He constructed his own theory of inheritance in which nature and not nurture played the leading role. He actively began to promote eugenics and soon gained important converts.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Eugenics / history*
  • Genetics / history*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Psychology / history
  • Statistics as Topic / history
  • United Kingdom

Personal name as subject

  • F Galton