Hereditary Genius

Hereditary Genius: An Inquiry Into Its Laws and Consequences
AuthorFrancis Galton
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
SubjectGenius
PublisherMacmillan Publishers
Publication date
1869
Pages390

Hereditary Genius: An Inquiry Into Its Laws and Consequences is a book by Francis Galton about the supposed genetic inheritance of intelligence. It was first published in 1869 by Macmillan Publishers.[1] The first American edition was published by D. Appleton & Company in 1870.[2] It was Galton's first major work written from a hereditarian perspective.[3] It was later referred to as "the first serious study of the inheritance of intelligence"[4] and as "the beginning of scientific interest in the topic of genius."[5] In the book, Galton demonstrated that the sons of men who he considered "eminent" in a given profession were more likely to achieve such eminence themselves than if they were not closely related to eminent individuals. He interpreted this pattern as evidence for genetic transmission of human intelligence,[6] though it was later shown that his results were entirely compatible with cultural inheritance as well.[7]

Contemporary reception

Alfred Russel Wallace wrote a favorable review of Hereditary Genius in Nature, concluding that the book "...will take rank as an important and valuable addition to the science of human nature."[8] In general, contemporary scientists in Victorian England reviewed the book favorably, but reception among non-scientific Victorian readers was more mixed: religious commentators were much more critical of the book than were those of neither a scientific nor a religious background.[9] Writing in the Journal of Anthropology, George Harris wrote, "We thank Mr. Galton for leading the way. We have canvassed his opinions freely; and, frequently as we differ from him, we must again assert our belief as to the value of his efforts, and the candid manner in which he has conducted his inquiries".[10] Charles Darwin, a cousin of Galton, praised the book, writing in a letter to his cousin,

I have only read 50 pages of your book (to Judges), but I must exhale myself, else something will go wrong with my inside. I do not think I ever in all of my life read anything more interesting and original—and how well and clearly you put every point!"[6]