RACIAL categories and eugenic arguments were commonplace assumptions amongst intellectual and political elites in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Writing in 1912, Leonard Darwin, an activist in the Eugenics Education Society (and later the Society's President), described the eugenic project as one which replaced the 'slow and cruel methods of nature' with 'some more rational, humane and rapid system of selection by which to ensure the continued progress of the race'. He envisaged an 'all-wise government' identifying whom to 'prohibit from figuring amongst the parents of the rising generations' and whom 'to encourage to marry'. 1 Such a vision illustrates how expectations about the requisite intellectual ability to be full members of a democratic polity have featured in liberal democracy.
Coined by Francis Galton, in 1883, the term 'eugenics' received its first institutional recognition in 1904 when Galton endowed a Research Fellowship in National Eugenics at University College, London. Karl Pearson, whose work in statistics facilitated the quantitative development of eugenic studies, was already well established there. 2 Galton's gift enabled the Eugenics Record Office to be opened, which in 1906, was renamed the Galton Laboratory for National Eugenics with Pearson appointed as its director. 3 The Laboratory was later incorporated into a new Department of Applied Statistics, of which Pearson was professorial head. The Department's research—undertaken by a growing band of students and scholars—included a concentration upon eugenic studies of heredity and medical questions. Daniel Kevles, in a leading scholarly account of the eugenics movement, describes the research supervised by Pearson: 'studies emanating from the laboratories typically explored the relationship of physique to intelligence; the resemblance of first cousins; the effect of parental occupation upon children's welfare or the birthrate;____________________