The 2017 Galton Institute conference, Surveying Galton’s Legacy
15th November, 2017 at The Royal Society
Francis Galton was a polymath who made major contributions to several branches of science, including meteorology, statistics, psychology and criminology, though we remember him chiefly as a geneticist who developed the field of biometry. Although he was the first to use the term “nature and nurture” in the context of intellectual ability, he is most infamous for coining the term “eugenics” to advocate selective breeding for desirable characteristics, including intelligence. Some of these ideas were triggered by the work of Charles Darwin who was Galton’s first cousin. In 1907 The Eugenics Education Society was founded in honour of Galton’s widely subscribed ideas. EES promulgated what were then highly prevalent views on genetics, demography and sociology. The concept of eugenics and the EES were supported by many well-known and respected social reformers, such as Sidney and Beatrice Webb and Havelock Ellis. However, there were detractors from the outset, and by the 1970s the concept of coercive eugenic measures was strongly repudiated. In 1989 EES changed its name to the Galton Institute (GI) with the aim of firmly promoting research and the understanding of all aspects of human heredity. Despite sustained efforts to fulfil these aims, there are still questions about the GI’s views and attitudes on eugenics. GI Council therefore decided that it is time to reconfirm total opposition to eugenics and re-examine where Galton’s ideas have led over the years.
The highlight of GI activity is the annual conference at which the Galton Lecture has been delivered for 100 years. For the 2017 conference we want to convene a stimulating meeting to cover the current state of the art in some of the key topics that Galton worked on over a century ago. We are delighted to have secured Bartha Knoppers, a renowned expert on the ethics of genetics, genomics and biotechnology, to explore eugenics past, present and future. For the other talks, by key experts, we shall begin with a historical perspective on Galton’s work in the context of prevailing ideas through the ages from the time when the work was first presented to the current era. Then we move into the practical scientific arenas of quantitative phenotype studies in selected populations to assess the role of genes on cognitive function with ageing; revealing the genetics of facial phenotype through measurement and genomics; the evolution of “fingerprinting” methods to check identity; the use of twin studies to dissect the roles of nature vs nurture; and the genetics of intellectual ability and disability. Galton was interested in all these areas and made important contributions to the early beginnings of these topics, as indicated in the many references gathered at an independent website. With the help of distinguished speakers Surveying Galton’s Legacy will illuminate the evolution of knowledge over the past century, in areas of human heredity related to Galton’s original work.
Be sure to join us.
Entrance is free but strictly by ticket. You can register for a ticket here:-