Locating a rare biography of Francis Galton

By | November 3, 2020
Frontispiece. Heinrich Driesmans 1903 Francis Galton (privately printed). Translated by M. E. Coleridge.

Francis Galton has been the subject of several major biographies (Cowan 1984; Gillham 2001; Waller 2001), and much historical study. Karl Pearson asserted his own primacy as Galton’s disciple with his Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton (Pearson 1914, 1924, 1930a, 1930b). Vague references to a Galton biography by “Coleridge” set me on the task of locating what seems to be an early Galton biography.

That biography appeared as a pamphlet, rather than a book, which explained why it was so difficult to find. The peculiarity of pamphlets is that they are usually bound together in groups, and need to be catalogued individually for them to be easily retrievable. If this does not happen, then the only visible information on the catalogue is the title of the bound volume, which is very unhelpful: it won’t tell you which pamphlets are bound in it.

Because this particular biography is part of the Galton Laboratory Books Collection that we have at UCL Special Collections, the pamphlets have been catalogued in much detail. Searching with Coleridge’s name on UCL Explore, produces the two copies. One of them comes up with the classmark ‘Galton Collection Pers Biometry 16’, and the second as ‘Galton Laboratory 161’. You can request them both from UCL Special Collections if you wish to see them.

This unusual biography was first published by Heinrich Driesmans in the journal  Die Gegenwart (Wochenschrift) 51: 388-392, dated 20 December 1902. Driesmans was aware of Galton’s work on eugenics, and wrote extensively on eugenics, race hygiene, and antisemitism, also suggesting that Irish people were “the Jews of Europe”.

The original German edition of Driesmans’s biography is available via Internet Archive and can also be found at UCL Library Services and Special Collections, digitised along with a set of letters Driesmans sent to Galton, now part of the Galton Papers as GALTON/3/3/4/20. (This information also is viewable via Wellcome Collection.)

Title page. Heinrich Driesmans 1903 Francis Galton (privately printed). Translated by M. E. Coleridge.

The full citation of Coleridge’s English translation is:

Driesmans, Heinrich. 1903. Francis Galton (privately printed by Richard Clay and Sons). Translated by M. E. Coleridge at the instance of E. B.

The English translation is available via UCL Library Services Digital Collections.

Francis Galton to Milly 15 October 1904 in Pearson 1930 LLLFG v3b p530

M. E. Coleridge was the poet and novelist, Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (1861-1907) (McGowran 2005). An unlikely choice for this particular translation, Coleridge was acquainted with several members of the Butler family, which included Francis Galton’s wife, Louisa Jane Galton (nee Butler) (1822-1897). Francis Galton mentioned meeting Coleridge at a dinner party in October 1904 (Francis Galton to Milly, 15 October 1904 in Pearson 1930 LLLFG vol3b, p530).

Other works by Driesmans, that quite possibly came to the University as part of the Galton Bequest in 1911 or were part of the Francis Galton Laboratory for the Study of National Eugenics Library, can be found on UCL Library Services Explore.

References

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. 1984. Sir Francis Galton and the Study of Heredity in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Garland.

Gillham, Nicholas Wright. 2001. A Life of Sir Francis Galton: From African Exploration to the Birth of Eugenics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pearson, Karl. 1914. The Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton. Volume 1. Birth 1822 to Marriage 1853. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pearson, Karl. 1924. The Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton. Volume 2. Researches of Middle Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pearson, Karl. 1930a. The Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton. Volume 3A. Correlation, Personal Identification, and Eugenics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pearson, Karl. 1930b. The Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton. Volume 3B. Characterization, especially by Letters, Index. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Waller, John Charles William. 2001. The social and intellectual origins of Sir Francis Galton’s (1822-1911) ideas on heredity and eugenics. University of London, University College London, London.

Author: Maria Kiladi