Hereditary Genius

A.W.F. Edwards

  • Statistics in Britain 1865-1930: The Social Construction of Scientific Knowledge by Donald MacKenzie
    Edinburgh, 306 pp, £12.50, April 1981, ISBN 0 85224 369 3

We are all prisoners of our backgrounds as well as slaves to our genes, and no field of science is riper for sociological investigation based on this premise than the development of biometry, and hence of much of modern statistics, from 1865 onwards. For did it not grow out of one of the Victorian reform movements, eugenics? Were not its successive leaders drawn from the same class of British society, with its capacity to disguise self-interest behind proposals for social reform, to salve its social conscience by promoting good causes at other people’s expense?

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