Tag Archives: Galton

Bowlby & Galton in British J. for Hist. of Sci.

The September 2011 issue of the British Journal for the History of Science (BJHS) has been released online. Included in this issue are two articles of interest to historians of psychology. The first, by Marga Vicedo of the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto, examines the American reception of John Bowlby’s (left) work on attachment in the 1950s. Part of Vicedo’s ongoing project on “Human Nature and Mother Love: The Search for the Maternal Instinct” the paper examines Bowlby’s contention that mother love was a biological need and the social ramifications of this contention. Also in this issue of BJHS is an article by Chris Renwick in which Renwick explores the motivations behind Francis Galton’s proposed eugenic programme and argues that Galton’s eugenic ideas were influence more by the social than biological science. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The social nature of the mother’s tie to her child: John Bowlby’s theory of attachment in post-war America,” by Marga Vicedo. The abstract reads,

This paper examines the development of British psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby’s views and their scientific and social reception in the United States during the 1950s. In a 1951 report for the World Health Organization Bowlby contended that the mother is the child’s psychic organizer, as observational studies of children worldwide showed that absence of mother love had disastrous consequences for children’s emotional health. By the end of the decade Bowlby had moved from observational studies of children in hospitals to animal research in order to support his thesis that mother love is a biological need. I examine the development of Bowlby’s views and their scientific and social reception in the United States during the 1950s, a central period in the evolution of his views and in debates about the social implications of his work. I argue that Bowlby’s view that mother love was a biological need for children influenced discussions about the desirability of mothers working outside the home during the early Cold War. By claiming that the future of a child’s mind is determined by her mother’s heart, Bowlby’s argument exerted an unusually strong emotional demand on mothers and had powerful implications for the moral valuation of maternal care and love.

“From political economy to sociology: Francis Galton and the social-scientific origins of eugenics,” by Chris Renwick. The abstract reads,

Having coined the word ‘eugenics’ and inspired leading biologists and statisticians of the early twentieth century, Francis Galton is often studied for his contributions to modern statistical biology. However, whilst documenting this part of his work, historians have frequently neglected crucial aspects of what motivated Galton to establish his eugenics research programme. Arguing that his work was shaped more by social than by biological science, this paper addresses these oversights by tracing the development of Galton’s programme, from its roots in a debate about political economy to his appeals for it to be taken up by sociologists. In so doing, the paper not only returns Galton’s ideas to their original context but also provides a reason to reflect on the place of the social sciences in history-of-science scholarship.

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Old Resource Made New

The Annals of Human Genetics (AHG), formerly named Annals of Eugenics, has recently made its 1925-1954 journal content available online for researchers. Among the now controversial eugenics research appearing throughout these issues, researchers can also expect to find statistical publications by mathematician Karl Pearson, whose work at University College London concerned the widely used Pearson Product-Moment Correlation Coefficient, the Pearson Chi-Square test, and P-value.

The AHG editorial cites “ongoing use and reference to materials”… “and the somewhat limited availability of the original printed copy” as justification for making the content available online. Furthermore,

Online access to the Annals of Eugenics archive will also be of interest to historians of science. In many ways, the history of the Annals embodies the history of human genetics as a scientific enterprise and exemplifies the complex relationship of this discipline with wider society. The somber role that human genetics played in providing what was taken to be a scientific framework to social prejudice during the period of “Eugenics” is a well-known case of the complex interaction between science and society. The present issue of the journal includes four specially commissioned articles that attempt to contextualize the online publication of the Annals of Eugenics archive. To exemplify some of the major scientific contributions made during that period, the article by J. Ott highlights key papers on linkage analysis published by the journal. The contributions by K. Weiss, G. Allen, and D. Kevles deal with aspects of the history of eugenics and of human genetics, and explore their relevance to ongoing debates regarding the social implications of human genetics research.

For further reading see this article by USA Today, Essays in Eugenics by Sir Francis Galton, The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness by psychologist Henry Herbert Goddard, and some earlier AHP coverage of the topic.

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Anniversary of James McKeen Cattell’s PhD

James McKeen CattellIt was on this day in 1886 James McKeen Cattell passed his doctoral examinations at the University of Leipzig. Cattell was the first American to graduate under Wilhelm Wundt’s supervision. G. Stanley Hall, however, had earlier spent time learning and working in the famed experimental psychology research laboratory — the first of its kind in the world — after earning a PhD at Harvard under William James. Ironically, Cattell had begun his graduate work under Hall’s supervision at Johns Hopkins, but left Baltimore for Leipzig after a dispute with Hall over his fellowship, which had been withdrawn and given to another Johns Hopkins student, John Dewey. Continue reading Anniversary of James McKeen Cattell’s PhD

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