Francis Galton


Francis Galton : biography

16 February 1822 – 17 January 1911

This work began in the 1880s while the Jewish scholar Joseph Jacobs studied anthropology and statistics with Francis Galton. Jacobs asked Galton to create a composite photograph of a Jewish type.Daniel Akiva Novak. Cambridge University Press, 2008 ISBN 0-521-88525-6 One of Jacobs’ first publications that used Galton’s composite imagery was “The Jewish Type, and Galton’s Composite Photographs,” Photographic News, 29, (April 24, 1885): 268–269.

Galton hoped his technique would aid medical diagnosis, and even criminology through the identification of typical criminal faces. However, his technique did not prove useful and fell into disuse, although after much work on it including by photographers Lewis Hine and John L. Lovell and Arthur Batut.


In a Royal Institution paper in 1888 and three books (Finger Prints, 1892; Decipherment of Blurred Finger Prints, 1893; and Fingerprint Directories, 1895)Conklin, Barbara Gardner., Robert Gardner, and Dennis Shortelle. Encyclopedia of Forensic Science: a Compendium of Detective Fact and Fiction. Westport, Conn.: Oryx, 2002. Print. Galton estimated the probability of two persons having the same fingerprint and studied the heritability and racial differences in fingerprints. He wrote about the technique (inadvertently sparking a controversy between Herschel and Faulds that was to last until 1917), identifying common pattern in fingerprints and devising a classification system that survives to this day.

The method of identifying criminals by their fingerprints had been introduced in the 1860s by Sir William James Herschel in India, and their potential use in forensic work was first proposed by Dr Henry Faulds in 1880, but Galton was the first to place the study on a scientific footing, which assisted its acceptance by the courts . Galton pointed out that there were specific types of fingerprint patterns. He described and classified them into eight broad categories. 1: plain arch, 2: tented arch, 3: simple loop, 4: central pocket loop, 5: double loop, 6: lateral pocket loop, 7: plain whorl, and 8: accidental.

Final years

In an effort to reach a wider audience, Galton worked on a novel entitled Kantsaywhere from May until December 1910. The novel described a utopia organized by a eugenic religion, designed to breed fitter and smarter humans. His unpublished notebooks show that this was an expansion of material he had been composing since at least 1901. He offered it to Methuen for publication, but they showed little enthusiasm. Galton wrote to his niece that it should be either “smothered or superseded”. His niece appears to have burnt most of the novel, offended by the love scenes, but large fragments survived.

Major Works

  • Galton, F. (1869). . London: Macmillan.
  • Galton, F (1883). . London: J.M. Dent & Company