Some Significant Eccentricities of Sir Francis Galton

The statistics journal Significance has published three historical articles commemorating the centenary of the death of Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911). The introduction, written by Julian Champkin, situates Galton in this celebratory review as an extraordinary but also rather amusing man with notable quirks.


A biography which recorded the year in which he developed the concept of correlation (it was 1888) but which neglected to mention his method, in south-west Africa, of getting a horse to swim a river (lead it along the edge of a cliff and give it a sharp push sideways), or of finding a source of honey (catch a bee, tie a feather to its leg so you can see it, and follow it to its hive) would give a partial and wholly inadequate picture of the man.

Subsequent articles by Dan Maier, Michele Bottone, and Stephen Senn note “Galton’s method of cutting a cake so that it does not go stale”; how he came up with the regression to the mean using parent and child height measures; and Galton’s attempt to visualize the number one million by counting one million flowers.


About Arlie Belliveau

Arlie Belliveau is a doctoral student enrolled in York University's History and Theory of Psychology program. She specializes in psychologists' early use of film.