The next seminar in the UCL Science and Literature Seminar Series will be given by Prof David Amigoni of Keele University on ‘Francis Galton, Karl Pearson and the Biographical Laboratory’.
Date, time and place: Tuesday, 2nd December, 5.30-7.30pm. G24 Foster Court, UCL – all welcome.
Abstract: This talk will explore Francis Galton’s use of biography; it will account for his use of biographical dictionaries as the basis for his early work in eugenics, including his own attempts to institute a so-called ‘Golden Book of Thriving Families’ as foundational work for early British sociology. The talk will critically explore the way in which the Galton Laboratory, under the direction of Karl Pearson, developed biographically-informed genealogies of leading intellectual families, such as the Darwins, the Galtons themselves, and newly fashioned intellectual aristocratic dynasty of the Batesons — William Bateson being one of the early British ‘fathers’ of the new science of Mendelian genetics. To raise the question of intellectual paternity is to explore Galton’s legacy in the debate between biological and cultural models of intellectual inheritance — a debate in which Pearson’s astonishing ‘labour’ of filial loyalty, ‘The Life and Letters of Francis Galton’ (1914-1930) was itself implicated.
Biography: David Amigoni is Professor of Victorian Literature at Keele University; he has published widely on Victorian writing, including on Samuel Butler, and is author of Colonies, Cults and Evolution (Cambridge 2007). He is presently working on a book about the place of life writing in the familial and intellectual interconnections between the Darwins, the Huxleys and the Batesons as a way of critically interrogating competing models of inheritance and the literature-science relationship.