A Hundred Years of Psychology, 1833-1933

By J. C. Flugel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
GALTON AND THE STUDY OF THE INDIVIDUAL

IN the applications of evolutionism to the human race one of the first in the field after Darwin and Spencer, and one of the most influential of all workers in this sphere, was Darwin's half-cousin Sir Francis Galton. In his wealth of novel ideas Galton is indeed without a parallel in the whole of modern psychology; but his genius was of a roving rather than of a persevering order. His insatiable curiosity constantly attracted him to new problems, to each of which in turn he brought to bear his characteristic energy, originality and courage, though inevitably leaving much to be filled in and followed up by others. From fashions to finger prints, from the geographical distribution of female beauty to the application of statistics to prize-giving, from weight lifting to the future of the race, nothing lacked interest to this ingenious, versatile and all-inquiring mind. He made an investigation into the efficacy of prayer, from which it appeared that this method was of little use for healing the sick or controlling the weather. He experimentally adopted a religious attitude towards the figure of Punch, and eventually succeeded in inducing in himself "a large share of the feelings that a barbarian entertains towards his idol". On another occasion he voluntarily and with much effort brought about a paranoialike condition "in which every horse seemed to be watching him, either with pricked ears or disguising its espionage".

His first important book from our present point of view was Hereditary Genius, published in 1869, just ten years after the appearance of Origin of Species. In this he applied

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