Cyril Burt: Fraud or Framed?

By N. J. Mackintosh | Go to book overview

SIX
Burt as hero and anti-hero: a Greek tragedy

H. J. EYSENCK


Fraud or carelessness

ARISTOTLE DEFINED TRAGEDY as dramatic events which move towards a fatal or disastrous conclusion. Burt's rise and fall would certainly fit that description, and if, as Joynson ( 1989) and Fletcher ( 1991) confidently predict, a Phoenix will arise from the ashes of his fame, then his life history would fit the notion of the classical hero: Early Success through strenuous effort, Downfall through machinations of envious enemies, and final Triumph.

In this chapter I shall assume that readers are familiar with the outlines of the story, as presented by Hearnshaw ( 1979) and Burt's two paladins mentioned above, and will not repeat the facts and figures, true and alleged, that fill the pages of their books. The details of the charges and counter- charges are given in earlier chapters of this book. I shall instead give my personal impression of Burt, whose pupil I was through BA, and PhD apprenticeship, and in whose department I worked for a while later on. I also encountered him frequently at BPS (British Psychological Society) Council meetings, and at meetings of London University committees.

In addition I shall discuss two important matters that arise from the persecution he suffered at the hands of the media, and from the notion that if Burt cheated, then the theories of genetic determination of differences in intelligence he advocated must be wrong. And finally, I shall devote some space to a discussion of the reason why so many famous scientists, from Ptolemy to Newton, from Kepler to Mendel, and from Pasteur to Millikan, seem to have published fraudulent data ( Broad and Wade 1982; Miller and Hersen 1992). It seemed possible that their historical misdemeanours might throw some light on Burt's motivation--if indeed there is anything to explain.

I will deal very summarily with what is undoubtedly the main question in most people's mind: Did Burt invent data and commit all the sins of which he stands accused? At first I was incredulous ( Eysenck 1977), and

-111-

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Cyril Burt: Fraud or Framed?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Contributors xi
  • ONE IQ and science: the mysterious Burt affair 1
  • References 11
  • TWO Burt and the early history of factor analysis 13
  • References 42
  • THREE Twins and other kinship studies 45
  • Introduction 45
  • References 69
  • FOUR Intelligence and social mobility 70
  • Introduction 70
  • Conclusions 90
  • References 94
  • FIVE Declining educational standards 95
  • References 109
  • SIX Burt as hero and anti-hero: A Greek tragedy 111
  • References 128
  • SEVEN Does it matter? The scientific and political impact of Burt's work 130
  • References 148
  • Index 153
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