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Customer Review

on 22 October 2012
This is an interesting reprint of a lecture given by the eminent statistician Karl Pearson, the first Professor of Eugenics in the Laboratory founded by Francis Galton at University College, London. The lecture seems quite shocking and forward to our present sensibilities, trained as we are by years of political correctness and self censorship. Pearson was addressing a meeting at Oxford University in 1907. Pearson presented the first scientific attempts at trying to identify inherited characteristics in the human species, some of the science being rather doubtful by modern standards but this does not detract from the thrust of his argument. Having to his mind established that many characteristics are inherited rather than nurtured he turns his attention to the effects of social welfare policies of the day that seem to be working counter to natural selection and improvement of the national (British) human stock. Contrary to a number of present day commentators who unthinkingly always equate early studies in eugenics with later Nazi extermination policies, Pearson does not propose the abandonment of these welfare programmes, but rather he suggests that ways in which the most able and intelligent may be encouraged to have larger families should be examined. Shocking stuff to our present senses, however, I am sure Pearson would have been delighted to know of the advances in cell and reproductive biology, that we seem happy to adopt, that now offer the possible elimination of some inherited diseases and other unwanted human characteristics. It was nice to go back to the source material of the early pioneers rather than rely on a distorted view from our current crop of circumscribed and fettered media commentators. I have rated this article on its historical interest rather than scientific or literary content.
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3.0 out of 5 stars
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