Reviews at galton.org

Commentary on emanations of the Galtonian penumbra.


Oren Solomon Harman.  The Man who Invented the Chromosome: a Life of Cyril Darlington.  Harvard University Press, 2004.
Review by Gavan Tredoux. (February 2005).

Darlington contributed an influential foreword to a reissue of Hereditary Genius in 1962, and was an important member of the school of genetics that Galton initiated.

Raymond Fancher.   "Francis Galton's African Ethnography and its Role in the Development of his Psychology" British Journal for the History of Science 1983.
Review by Gavan Tredoux (March 2004).

Fancher may claim that Galton’s nascent hereditarianism was based on submerged sexual desire and other psychological peculiarities, but it is far easier to believe that Fancher is himself motivated not by biographical evidence, since he offers so little of it, but rather by antipathies generated by the controversies of his own era.

Colin Beavan.  Fingerprints: The Origins of Crime Detection and the Murder Case that Launched Forensic Science (Hyperion, 2001)
Review by Gavan Tredoux (December 2003).

Even if Faulds continues to attract sympathy and interest today, it is rash to boost his reputation, as Beavan does, by sleight of hand, with little sense of skepticism or critical judgment, and at the expense of those to whom Faulds was in the end little more than an annoyance.

Gerald Sweeney.  Fighting for the Good Cause: Reflections on Francis Galton's Legacy to American Hereditarian Psychology  (APS, 2001)
Review by Gavan Tredoux (November 2002).

Sweeney has a thoroughly political agenda. Like postmodernist literary criticism, the result is an unintentionally ironical incarnation of all the faults attributed to the subject. Postmodernists complain about the “prison house of language”, but their own prose is impenetrable and might easily be mistaken for nonsense. Though Sweeney expends chapters on the supposed political nature of Galton’s work on mental ability and heredity, the political agenda is transparently all his own.  The principal fault he attributes to Galton – carelessness bordering on fraud – is on full display in his own work. Where his argument contains substantial points, elementary cross-checking refutes them.

N. W. Gillham.  A Life of Sir Francis Galton: From African Exploration to the Birth of Eugenics (Oxford, 2001)
Review by Gavan Tredoux (August 2002).

Gillham has missed the opportunity to provide a detailed assessment of Galton’s contemporary influence on fields like behavior genetics and differential psychology, and to bring his subject right up to date by presenting the current state of knowledge about the topics that were most important to him. This detracts from the value of what is otherwise a fine biography.