Sir Francis Galton, FRS (/ˈfrɑːnsɪs ˈɡɔːltən/; 16 February
1822 – 17 January 1911) was an English Victorian era
statistician, progressive, polymath, sociologist, psychologist,
anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor,
meteorologist, proto-geneticist, and psychometrician. He was knighted
Galton produced over 340 papers and books. He also created the
statistical concept of correlation and widely promoted regression
toward the mean. He was the first to apply statistical methods to the
study of human differences and inheritance of intelligence, and
introduced the use of questionnaires and surveys for collecting data
on human communities, which he needed for genealogical and
biographical works and for his anthropometric studies.
He was a pioneer in eugenics, coining the term itself and the
phrase "nature versus nurture". His book
was the first social scientific attempt to study genius and
As an investigator of the human mind, he founded psychometrics (the
science of measuring mental faculties) and differential psychology and
the lexical hypothesis of personality. He devised a method for
classifying fingerprints that proved useful in forensic science. He
also conducted research on the power of prayer, concluding it had none
by its null effects on the longevity of those prayed for. His quest
for the scientific principles of diverse phenomena extended even to
the optimal method for making tea.
As the initiator of scientific meteorology, he devised the first
weather map, proposed a theory of anticyclones, and was the first to
establish a complete record of short-term climatic phenomena on a
European scale. He also invented the Galton Whistle for testing
differential hearing ability. He was Charles Darwin's
1 Early life
2 Middle years
3 Heredity and eugenics
4 Model for population stability
5 Empirical test of pangenesis and Lamarckism
6 Anthropometric Laboratory at the 1884 International Health
7 Innovations in statistics and psychological theory
7.2 The lexical hypothesis
7.3 The questionnaire
Variance and standard deviation
7.5 Experimental derivation of the normal distribution
7.6 Bivariate normal distribution
Correlation and regression
7.8 Regression to mediocrity
7.9 Theories of perception
7.10 Differential psychology
7.11 Composite photography
9 Final years
10 Honours and impact
11 Major works
12 See also
14 Further reading
15 External links
Galton was born at "The Larches", a large house in the
of Birmingham, England, built on the site of "Fair Hill", the former
home of Joseph Priestley, which the botanist
William Withering had
renamed. He was Charles Darwin's half-cousin, sharing the common
grandparent Erasmus Darwin. His father was Samuel Tertius Galton, son
of Samuel "John" Galton. The Galtons were famous and highly successful
Quaker gun-manufacturers and bankers, while the Darwins were
distinguished in medicine and science.
He was cousin of
Douglas Strutt Galton and half-cousin of Charles
Darwin and both families boasted Fellows of the
Royal Society and
members who loved to invent in their spare time. Both Erasmus Darwin
and Samuel Galton were founding members of the famous
Lunar Society of
Birmingham, whose members included Boulton, Watt, Wedgwood, Priestley,
Edgeworth, and other distinguished scientists and industrialists.
Likewise, both families were known for their literary talent: Erasmus
Darwin composed lengthy technical treatises in verse; Galton's aunt
Mary Anne Galton
Mary Anne Galton wrote on aesthetics and religion, and her notable
autobiography detailed the unique environment of her childhood
Lunar Society members.
Portrait of Galton by Octavius Oakley, 1840
Galton was by many accounts a child prodigy – he was reading by
the age of two; at age five he knew some Greek,
Latin and long
division, and by the age of six he had moved on to adult books,
Shakespeare for pleasure, and poetry, which he quoted at
length. Later in life, Galton would propose a connection between
genius and insanity based on his own experience. He stated:
Men who leave their mark on the world are very often those who, being
gifted and full of nervous power, are at the same time haunted and
driven by a dominant idea, and are therefore within a measurable
distance of insanity
Galton attended King Edward's School, Birmingham, but chafed at the
narrow classical curriculum and left at 16. His parents pressed
him to enter the medical profession, and he studied for two years at
Birmingham General Hospital and
King's College London
King's College London Medical School.
He followed this up with mathematical studies at Trinity College,
University of Cambridge, from 1840 to early 1844.
According to the records of the United Grand Lodge of England, it was
in February 1844 that Galton became a freemason at the so-called
Scientific lodge, held at the Red Lion Inn in Cambridge, progressing
through the three masonic degrees as follows: Apprentice, 5 February
1844; Fellow Craft, 11 March 1844; Master Mason, 13 May 1844. A
curious note in the record states: "
Francis Galton Trinity College
student, gained his certificate 13 March 1845". One of Galton's
masonic certificates from Scientific lodge can be found among his
papers at University College, London.
A severe nervous breakdown altered Galton's original intention to try
for honours. He elected instead to take a "poll" (pass) B.A. degree,
like his half-cousin Charles Darwin. (Following the Cambridge
custom, he was awarded an M.A. without further study, in 1847.) He
then briefly resumed his medical studies. The death of his father in
1844 had left him financially independent but emotionally
destitute, and he terminated his medical studies
entirely, turning to foreign travel, sport and technical invention.
In his early years Galton was an enthusiastic traveller, and made a
notable solo trip through Eastern Europe to Constantinople, before
going up to Cambridge. In 1845 and 1846 he went to
Egypt and travelled
Khartoum in the Sudan, and from there to Beirut,
Damascus and down the Jordan.
In 1850 he joined the Royal Geographical Society, and over the next
two years mounted a long and difficult expedition into then
South West Africa
South West Africa (now Namibia). He wrote a successful
book on his experience, "Narrative of an Explorer in Tropical South
Africa". He was awarded the Royal Geographical Society's Founder's
Gold Medal in 1853 and the Silver Medal of the French Geographical
Society for his pioneering cartographic survey of the region. This
established his reputation as a geographer and explorer. He proceeded
to write the best-selling The Art of Travel, a handbook of practical
advice for the Victorian on the move, which went through many editions
and is still in print.
In January 1853, Galton met Louisa Jane Butler (1822–1897) at his
neighbour's home and they were married on 1 August 1853. The union of
43 years proved childless.
Louisa Jane Butler
Galton was a polymath who made important contributions in many fields
of science, including meteorology (the anti-cyclone and the first
popular weather maps), statistics (regression and correlation),
psychology (synaesthesia), biology (the nature and mechanism of
heredity), and criminology (fingerprints). Much of this was influenced
by his penchant for counting or measuring. Galton prepared the first
weather map published in
The Times (1 April 1875, showing the weather
from the previous day, 31 March), now a standard feature in newspapers
He became very active in the British Association for the Advancement
of Science, presenting many papers on a wide variety of topics at its
meetings from 1858 to 1899. He was the general secretary from 1863
to 1867, president of the Geographical section in 1867 and 1872, and
president of the Anthropological Section in 1877 and 1885. He was
active on the council of the
Royal Geographical Society
Royal Geographical Society for over forty
years, in various committees of the Royal Society, and on the
James McKeen Cattell, a student of
Wilhelm Wundt who had been reading
Galton's articles, decided he wanted to study under him. He eventually
built a professional relationship with Galton, measuring subjects and
working together on research.
In 1888, Galton established a lab in the science galleries of the
South Kensington Museum. In Galton's lab, participants could be
measured to gain knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses. Galton
also used these data for his own research. He would typically charge
people a small fee for his services.
During this time, Galton wrote a controversial letter to the Times
titled 'Africa for the Chinese', where he argued that the Chinese, as
a race capable of high civilisation and only temporarily stunted by
the recent failures of Chinese dynasties, should be encouraged to
immigrate to Africa and displace the supposedly inferior aboriginal
Heredity and eugenics
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Galton in his later years
The publication by his cousin
Charles Darwin of The Origin of Species
in 1859 was an event that changed Galton's life (Forrest 1974,
p. 84). He came to be gripped by the work, especially the first
chapter on "Variation under Domestication", concerning animal
Galton devoted much of the rest of his life to exploring variation in
human populations and its implications, at which Darwin had only
hinted. In so doing, he established a research program which embraced
multiple aspects of human variation, from mental characteristics to
height; from facial images to fingerprint patterns. This required
inventing novel measures of traits, devising large-scale collection of
data using those measures, and in the end, the discovery of new
statistical techniques for describing and understanding the data.
Galton was interested at first in the question of whether human
ability was hereditary, and proposed to count the number of the
relatives of various degrees of eminent men. If the qualities were
hereditary, he reasoned, there should be more eminent men among the
relatives than among the general population. To test this, he invented
the methods of historiometry. Galton obtained extensive data from a
broad range of biographical sources which he tabulated and compared in
various ways. This pioneering work was described in detail in his book
Genius in 1869. Here he showed, among other things, that
the numbers of eminent relatives dropped off when going from the first
degree to the second degree relatives, and from the second degree to
the third. He took this as evidence of the inheritance of abilities.
Galton recognised the limitations of his methods in these two works,
and believed the question could be better studied by comparisons of
twins. His method envisaged testing to see if twins who were similar
at birth diverged in dissimilar environments, and whether twins
dissimilar at birth converged when reared in similar environments. He
again used the method of questionnaires to gather various sorts of
data, which were tabulated and described in a paper The history of
twins in 1875. In so doing he anticipated the modern field of
behaviour genetics, which relies heavily on twin studies. He concluded
that the evidence favoured nature rather than nurture. He also
proposed adoption studies, including trans-racial adoption studies, to
separate the effects of heredity and environment.
Galton recognised that cultural circumstances influenced the
capability of a civilisation's citizens, and their reproductive
Hereditary Genius, he envisaged a situation conducive to
resilient and enduring civilisation as follows:
The best form of civilization in respect to the improvement of the
race, would be one in which society was not costly; where incomes were
chiefly derived from professional sources, and not much through
inheritance; where every lad had a chance of showing his abilities,
and, if highly gifted, was enabled to achieve a first-class education
and entrance into professional life, by the liberal help of the
exhibitions and scholarships which he had gained in his early youth;
where marriage was held in as high honour as in ancient Jewish times;
where the pride of race was encouraged (of course I do not refer to
the nonsensical sentiment of the present day, that goes under that
name); where the weak could find a welcome and a refuge in celibate
monasteries or sisterhoods, and lastly, where the better sort of
emigrants and refugees from other lands were invited and welcomed, and
their descendants naturalised. (p. 362)
Galton invented the term eugenics in 1883 and set down many of his
observations and conclusions in a book, Inquiries into Human Faculty
and Its Development. He believed that a scheme of 'marks' for
family merit should be defined, and early marriage between families of
high rank be encouraged by provision of monetary incentives. He
pointed out some of the tendencies in British society, such as the
late marriages of eminent people, and the paucity of their children,
which he thought were dysgenic. He advocated encouraging eugenic
marriages by supplying able couples with incentives to have children.
On 29 October 1901, Galton chose to address eugenic issues when he
delivered the second Huxley lecture at the Royal Anthropological
Eugenics Review, the journal of the
Eugenics Education Society,
commenced publication in 1909. Galton, the Honorary President of the
society, wrote the foreword for the first volume. The First
International Congress of
Eugenics was held in July 1912. Winston
Churchill and Carls Elliot were among the attendees.
Model for population stability
Sir Francis Galton, 1890s
Galton's formulation of regression and its link to the bivariate
normal distribution can be traced to his attempts at developing a
mathematical model for population stability. Although Galton's first
attempt to study Darwinian questions,
Hereditary Genius, generated
little enthusiasm at the time, the text led to his further studies in
the 1870s concerning the inheritance of physical traits. This text
contains some crude notions of the concept of regression, described in
a qualitative matter. For example, he wrote of dogs: "If a man breeds
from strong, well-shaped dogs, but of mixed pedigree, the puppies will
be sometimes, but rarely, the equals of their parents. they will
commonly be of a mongrel, nondescript type, because ancestral
peculiarities are apt to crop out in the offspring."  This notion
created a problem for Galton, as he could not reconcile the tendency
of a population to maintain a normal distribution of traits from
generation to generation with the notion of inheritance. It seemed
that a large number of factors operated independently on offspring,
leading to the normal distribution of a trait in each generation.
However, this provided no explanation as to how a parent can have a
significant impact on his offspring, which was the basis of
Galton's solution to this problem was presented in his Presidential
Address at the September 1885 meeting of the British association for
the advancement of science, as he was serving at the time as President
of Section H: Anthropology. The address was published in Nature,
and Galton further developed the theory in "Regression toward
mediocrity in hereditary stature" and "
Hereditary Stature." An
elaboration of this theory was published in 1889 in Natural
Inheritance. There were three key developments that helped Galton
develop this theory: the development of the law of error in 1874-1875,
the formulation of an empirical law of reversion in 1877, and the
development of a mathematical framework encompassing regression using
human population data during 1885.
Galton's development of the law of regression to the mean, or
reversion, was due to insights from the quincunx and his studies of
sweet peas. While Galton had previously invented the quincunx prior to
February 1874, the 1877 version of the quincunx had a new feature that
helped Galton demonstrate that a normal mixture of normal
distributions is also normal. Galton demonstrated this using a new
version of quincunx, adding chutes to the apparatus to represent
reversion. When the pellets passed through the curved chutes
(representing reversion) and then the pins (representing family
variability), the result was a stable population. On Friday 19
February 1877 Galton gave a lecture entitled "Typical Laws of
Heredity" at the
Royal Institution in London. In this lecture, he
posed that there must a counteracting force to maintain population
stability. However, this model required a much larger degree of
intergenerational natural selection than was plausible.
In 1875, Galton started growing sweet peas and addressed the Royal
Institution on his findings on 9 February 1877. He found that each
group of progeny seeds followed a normal curve, and the curves were
equally disperse. Each group was not centered about the parent's
weight, but rather at a weight closer to the population average.
Galton called this reversion, as every progeny group was distributed
at a value that was closer to the population average than the parent.
The deviation from the population average was in the same direction,
but the magnitude of the deviation was only one-third as large. In
doing so, Galton demonstrated that there was variability among each of
the families, yet the families combined to produce a stable, normally
distributed population. When Galton addressed the British association
for the advancement of science in 1885, he said of his investigation
of sweet peas, "I was then blind to what I now perceive to be the
simple explanation of the phenomenon."
Galton was able to further his notion of regression by collecting and
analyzing data on human stature. Galton asked for help of
mathematician J. Hamilton Dickson in investigating the geometric
relationship of the data. He determined that the regression
coefficient did not ensure population stability by chance, but rather
that the regression coefficient, conditional variance, and population
were interdependent quantities related by a simple equation. Thus
Galton identified that the linearity of regression was not
coincidental but rather was a necessary consequence of population
The model for population stability resulted in Galton's formulation of
the Law of Ancestral Heredity. This law, which was published in
Natural Inheritance, states that the two parents of an offspring
jointly contribute one half of an offspring's heritage, while the
other, more-removed ancestors constitute a smaller proportion of the
offspring's heritage. Galton viewed reversion as a spring, that
when stretched, would return the distribution of traits back to the
normal distribution. He concluded that evolution would have to occur
via discontinuous steps, as reversion would neutralize any incremental
steps. When Mendel's principles were rediscovered in 1900, this
resulted in a fierce battle between the followers of Galton's Law of
Ancestral Heredity, the biometricians, and those who advocated for
Empirical test of pangenesis and Lamarckism
Galton conducted wide-ranging inquiries into heredity which led him to
challenge Charles Darwin's hypothesis of pangenesis. Darwin had
proposed as part of this model that certain particles, which he called
"gemmules" moved throughout the body and were also responsible for the
inheritance of acquired characteristics. Galton, in consultation with
Darwin, set out to see if they were transported in the blood. In a
long series of experiments in 1869 to 1871, he transfused the blood
between dissimilar breeds of rabbits, and examined the features of
their offspring. He found no evidence of characters transmitted in
the transfused blood.
Darwin challenged the validity of Galton's experiment, giving his
reasons in an article published in Nature where he wrote:
Now, in the chapter on
Pangenesis in my Variation of Animals and
Plants under Domestication I have not said one word about the blood,
or about any fluid proper to any circulating system. It is, indeed,
obvious that the presence of gemmules in the blood can form no
necessary part of my hypothesis; for I refer in illustration of it to
the lowest animals, such as the Protozoa, which do not possess blood
or any vessels; and I refer to plants in which the fluid, when present
in the vessels, cannot be considered as true blood. The fundamental
laws of growth, reproduction, inheritance, &c., are so closely
similar throughout the whole organic kingdom, that the means by which
the gemmules (assuming for the moment their existence) are diffused
through the body, would probably be the same in all beings; therefore
the means can hardly be diffusion through the blood. Nevertheless,
when I first heard of Mr. Galton's experiments, I did not sufficiently
reflect on the subject, and saw not the difficulty of believing in the
presence of gemmules in the blood.
Galton explicitly rejected the idea of the inheritance of acquired
characteristics (Lamarckism), and was an early proponent of "hard
heredity"  through selection alone. He came close to rediscovering
Mendel's particulate theory of inheritance, but was prevented from
making the final breakthrough in this regard because of his focus on
continuous, rather than discrete, traits (now known as polygenic
traits). He went on to found the biometric approach to the study of
heredity, distinguished by its use of statistical techniques to study
continuous traits and population-scale aspects of heredity.
This approach was later taken up enthusiastically by
Karl Pearson and
W.F.R. Weldon; together, they founded the highly influential journal
Biometrika in 1901. (
R.A. Fisher would later show how the biometrical
approach could be reconciled with the Mendelian approach.) The
statistical techniques that Galton invented (correlation,
regression—see below) and phenomena he established (regression to
the mean) formed the basis of the biometric approach and are now
essential tools in all the social sciences.
Anthropometric Laboratory at the 1884 International Health
In 1884, London hosted the International Health Exhibition. This
exhibition placed much emphasis on highlighting Victorian developments
in sanitation and public health, and allowed the nation to display its
advanced public health outreach, compared to other countries at the
Francis Galton took advantage of this opportunity to set up his
anthropometric laboratory. He stated that the purpose of this
laboratory was to “show the public the simplicity of the instruments
and methods by which the chief physical characteristics of man may be
measured and recorded.” The laboratory was an interactive
walk-through in which physical characteristics such as height, weight,
and eyesight, would be measured for each subject after payment of an
admission fee. Upon entering the laboratory, a subject would visit the
following stations in order. First, they would fill out a form with
personal and family history (age, birthplace, marital status,
residence, and occupation), then visit stations that recorded hair and
eye color, followed by the keenness, color-sense, and depth perception
of sight. Next, they would examine the keenness, or relative
acuteness, of hearing and highest audible note of their hearing
followed by an examination of their sense of touch. However, because
the surrounding area was noisy, the apparatus intended to measure
hearing was rendered ineffective by the noise and echoes in the
building. Their breathing capacity would also be measured, as well as
their ability to throw a punch. The next stations would examine
strength of both pulling and squeezing with both hands. Lastly,
subjects' heights in various positions (sitting, standing, etc.) as
well as arm span and weight would be measured. One excluded
characteristic of interest was the size of the head. Galton notes in
his analysis that this omission was mostly for practical reasons. For
instance, it would not be very accurate and additionally it would
require much time for women to disassemble and reassemble their hair
and bonnets. The patrons would then be given a souvenir containing
all their biological data, while Galton would also keep a copy for
future statistical research.
Though the laboratory did not employ any revolutionary measurement
techniques, it was unique because of the simple logistics of
constructing such a demonstration within a limited space and have it
quickly and efficiently be able to gather all the necessary data. The
laboratory itself was a see-through (lattice-walled) fenced off
gallery measuring 36 feet long by 6 feet long. To collect data
efficiently, Galton had to make the process as simple as possible for
people to understand. As a result, subjects were taken through the
laboratory in pairs so that explanations could be given to two at a
time, also in the hope that one of the two would confidently take the
initiative to go through all the tests first, encouraging the other.
With this design, the total time spent in the exhibit was fourteen
minutes for each pair.
Galton states that the measurements of human characteristics are
useful for two reasons. First, he states that measuring physical
characteristics is useful in order to ensure, on a more domestic
level, that children are developing properly. A useful example he
gives for the practicality of these domestic measurements is regularly
checking a child’s eyesight, in order to correct any deficiencies
early on. The second use for the data from his anthropometric
laboratory is for statistical studies. He comments on the usefulness
of the collected data to compare attributes across occupations,
residences, races, etc. The exhibit at the health exhibition
allowed Galton to collect a large amount of raw data from which to
conduct further comparative studies. He had 9,337 respondents, each
measured in 17 categories, creating a rather comprehensive statistical
After the conclusion of the International Health Exhibition, Galton
used these data to confirm in humans his theory of linear regression,
posed after studying sweet peas. The accumulation of this human data
allowed him to observe the correlation between forearm length and
height, head width and head breadth, and head length and height. With
these observations he was able to write “Co-relations and their
Measurements, chiefly from Anthropometric Data". In this
publication, Galton defined what co-relation as a phenomenon that
occurs when "the variation of the one [variable] is accompanied on the
average by more or less variation of the other, and in the same
Innovations in statistics and psychological theory
The method used in
Genius has been described as the first
example of historiometry. To bolster these results, and to attempt to
make a distinction between 'nature' and 'nurture' (he was the first to
apply this phrase to the topic), he devised a questionnaire that he
sent out to 190 Fellows of the Royal Society. He tabulated
characteristics of their families, such as birth order and the
occupation and race of their parents. He attempted to discover whether
their interest in science was 'innate' or due to the encouragements of
others. The studies were published as a book, English men of science:
their nature and nurture, in 1874. In the end, it promoted the nature
versus nurture question, though it did not settle it, and provided
some fascinating data on the sociology of scientists of the time.
The lexical hypothesis
Sir Francis was the first scientist to recognise what is now known as
the lexical hypothesis. This is the idea that the most salient and
socially relevant personality differences in people's lives will
eventually become encoded into language. The hypothesis further
suggests that by sampling language, it is possible to derive a
comprehensive taxonomy of human personality traits.
Galton's inquiries into the mind involved detailed recording of
people's subjective accounts of whether and how their minds dealt with
phenomena such as mental imagery. To better elicit this information,
he pioneered the use of the questionnaire. In one study, he asked his
fellow members of the
Royal Society of London to describe mental
images that they experienced. In another, he collected in-depth
surveys from eminent scientists for a work examining the effects of
nature and nurture on the propensity toward scientific thinking.
Variance and standard deviation
Core to any statistical analysis is the concept that measurements
vary: they have both a central tendency, or mean, and a spread around
this central value, or variance. In the late 1860s, Galton conceived
of a measure to quantify normal variation: the standard deviation.
Galton was a keen observer. In 1906, visiting a livestock fair, he
stumbled upon an intriguing contest. An ox was on display, and the
villagers were invited to guess the animal's weight after it was
slaughtered and dressed. Nearly 800 participated, and Galton was able
to study their individual entries after the event. Galton stated that
"the middlemost estimate expresses the vox populi, every other
estimate being condemned as too low or too high by a majority of the
voters", and reported this value (the median, in terminology he
himself had introduced, but chose not to use on this occasion) as
1,207 pounds. To his surprise, this was within 0.8% of the weight
measured by the judges. Soon afterwards, in response to an enquiry, he
reported the mean of the guesses as 1,197 pounds, but did not
comment on its improved accuracy. Recent archival research has
found some slips in transmitting Galton's calculations to the original
article in Nature: the median was actually 1,208 pounds, and the
dressed weight of the ox 1,197 pounds, so the mean estimate had zero
error. James Surowiecki uses this weight-judging competition as
his opening example: had he known the true result, his conclusion on
the wisdom of the crowd would no doubt have been more strongly
The same year, Galton suggested in a letter to the journal Nature a
better method of cutting a round cake by avoiding making radial
Experimental derivation of the normal distribution
Galton's 1889 illustration of the quincunx or bean machine.
Studying variation, Galton invented the quincunx, a pachinko-like
device also known as the bean machine, as a tool for demonstrating the
law of error and the normal distribution.
Bivariate normal distribution
He also discovered the properties of the bivariate normal distribution
and its relationship to regression analysis.
Correlation and regression
Galton's correlation diagram 1886
In 1846, the French physicist
Auguste Bravais (1811–1863) first
developed what would become the correlation coefficient. After
examining forearm and height measurements, Galton independently
rediscovered the concept of correlation in 1888 and
demonstrated its application in the study of heredity, anthropology,
and psychology. Galton's later statistical study of the
probability of extinction of surnames led to the concept of
Galton–Watson stochastic processes. This is now a core of modern
statistics and regression.
Galton invented the use of the regression line and for the choice
of r (for reversion or regression) to represent the correlation
In the 1870s and 1880s he was a pioneer in the use of normal theory to
fit histograms to actual tabulated data, much of which he collected
himself: for instance large samples of sibling and parental height.
Consideration of the results from these empirical studies led to his
further insights into evolution, natural selection, and regression to
Regression to mediocrity
Galton was the first to describe and explain the common phenomenon of
regression toward the mean, which he first observed in his experiments
on the size of the seeds of successive generations of sweet peas.
The conditions under which regression toward the mean occurs depend on
the way the term is mathematically defined. Galton first observed the
phenomenon in the context of simple linear regression of data points.
Galton developed the following model: pellets fall through a
quincunx or "bean machine" forming a normal distribution centered
directly under their entrance point. These pellets could then be
released down into a second gallery (corresponding to a second
measurement occasion. Galton then asked the reverse question "from
where did these pellets come?"
The answer was not "on average directly above". Rather it was "on
average, more towards the middle", for the simple reason that there
were more pellets above it towards the middle that could wander left
than there were in the left extreme that could wander to the right,
inwards (p. 477) 
Theories of perception
Galton went beyond measurement and summary to attempt to explain the
phenomena he observed. Among such developments, he proposed an early
theory of ranges of sound and hearing, and collected large quantities
of anthropometric data from the public through his popular and
long-running Anthropometric Laboratory, which he established in 1884,
and where he studied over 9,000 people. It was not until 1985 that
these data were analysed in their entirety.
Galton's study of human abilities ultimately led to the foundation of
differential psychology and the formulation of the first mental tests.
He was interested in measuring humans in every way possible. This
included measuring their ability to make sensory discrimination which
he assumed was linked to intellectual prowess. Galton suggested that
individual differences in general ability are reﬂected in
performance on relatively simple sensory capacities and in speed of
reaction to a stimulus, variables that could be objectively measured
by tests of sensory discrimination and reaction time. He also
measured how quickly people reacted which he later linked to internal
wiring which ultimately limited intelligence ability. Throughout his
research Galton assumed that people who reacted faster were more
intelligent than others.
Galton also devised a technique called "composite portraiture"
(produced by superimposing multiple photographic portraits of
individuals' faces registered on their eyes) to create an average face
(see averageness). In the 1990s, a hundred years after his discovery,
much psychological research has examined the attractiveness of these
faces, an aspect that Galton had remarked on in his original lecture.
Sigmund Freud in his work on dreams, picked up
Galton's suggestion that these composites might represent a useful
metaphor for an
Ideal type or a concept of a "natural kind" (see
Eleanor Rosch)—such as Jewish men, criminals, patients with
tuberculosis, etc.—onto the same photographic plate, thereby
yielding a blended whole, or "composite", that he hoped could
generalise the facial appearance of his subject into an "average" or
"central type". (See also entry Modern physiognomy under
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. One of
Jacobs' first publications that used Galton's composite imagery was
"The Jewish Type, and Galton's Composite Photographs," Photographic
News, 29, (24 April 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.
Royal Institution paper in 1888 and three books (Finger Prints,
1892; Decipherment of Blurred Finger Prints, 1893; and Fingerprint
Directories, 1895), 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.
Francis Galton, aged 87, on the stoep at Fox Holm, Cobham, with Karl
Francis Galton by Charles Wellington Furse, given to the National
Portrait Gallery, London in 1954
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 organised 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,
and it was published online by University College London.
Honours and impact
Over the course of his career Galton received many major awards,
Copley Medal of the
Royal Society (1910). He received in
1853 the Founder's Medal, the highest award of the Royal Geographical
Society, for his explorations and map-making of southwest Africa. He
was elected a member of the prestigious Athenaeum Club in 1855 and
Fellow of the Royal Society
Fellow of the Royal Society in 1860. His autobiography also
lists the following:
Silver Medal, French Geographical Society (1854)
Gold Medal of the
Royal Society (1886)
Officier de l'Instruction Publique, France (1891)
D.C.L. Oxford (1894)
Sc.D. (Honorary), Cambridge (1895)
Huxley Medal, Anthropological Institute (1901)
Elected Hon. Fellow
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge (1902)
Royal Society (1902)
Linnean Society of London's
Darwin–Wallace Medal (1908)
Galton was knighted in 1909. His statistical heir Karl Pearson, first
holder of the Galton Chair of
Eugenics at University College London
(now Galton Chair of Genetics), wrote a three-volume biography of
Galton, in four parts, after his death (Pearson & 1914, 1924,
1930). In the early days of IQ testing,
Lewis Terman estimated that
Galton's childhood IQ was about 200, based on the fact that he
consistently performed mentally at roughly twice his chronological age
(Forrest 1974). (This follows the original definition of IQ as mental
age divided by chronological age, rather than the modern definition
based on the standard distribution and standard deviation.)
The flowering plant genus
Galtonia was named in his honour.
Galton, Francis (1853). Narrative of an Explorer in Tropical South
Galton, F. (1869).
Hereditary Genius. London: Macmillan.
Galton, F (1883). Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development.
London: J.M. Dent & Company
Galton, F (1889). Natural Inheritance. London: Macmillan.
A Large Attendance in the Antechamber, a play about Galton
Efficacy of prayer
Eugenics in the United States
Francis Galton F.R.S: 1822-1911". galton.org. Retrieved 9
Francis Galton - Biography, Books and Theories".
famouspsychologists.org. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
^ Francis Galton, Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development
(London, England: Macmillan and Co., 1883), pp. 24–25. From page 24:
"[This book's] intention is to touch on various topics more or less
connected with that of the cultivation of race, or, as we might call
it, with "eugenic"1 questions, and to present the results of several
of my own separate investigations.
1 This is, with questions bearing on what is termed in Greek, eugenes,
namely, good in stock, hereditarily endowed with noble qualities.
This, and the allied words, eugeneia, etc., are equally applicable to
men, brutes, and plants. We greatly want a brief word to express the
science of improving stock, which is by no means confined to questions
of judicious mating, but which, especially in the case of man, takes
cognisance of all influences that tend in however remote a degree to
give the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of
prevailing speedily over the less suitable than they otherwise would
have had. The word eugenics would sufficiently express the idea; it is
at least a neater word and a more generalised one than viriculture,
which I once ventured to use."
^ Galton, Francis (1874). "On men of science, their nature and their
nurture". Proceedings of the
Royal Institution of Great Britain. 7:
^ a b c Galton, F. (1869).
Hereditary Genius. London: Macmillan.
^ Xavier (17 January 1911). "Francis Galton : Statistical
Inquiries into the Efficacy of Prayer, written in 1872; with notes on
his other work". Abelard.org. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
^ "The Art of Travel p208 et seq 1855" (PDF). galton.org. Retrieved 9
^ Barile, Margherita; Weisstein, Eric W. "
Francis Galton (1822-1911)
-- from Eric Weisstein's World of Scientific Biography". wolfram.com.
Retrieved 9 January 2017.
^ a b Galton, Francis (1883). Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its
Development. London: J.M. Dent & Co.
^ Darwin, Francis (1887). The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin. New
York: D. Appleton & Co.
^ a b Bulmer 2003, p. 4.
^ Pearson, K. (1914). The life, letters and labours of Francis Galton
(4 vols.). Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.
^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 31 January 2010
^ "Galton, Francis (GLTN839F)". A Cambridge Alumni Database.
University of Cambridge.
^ 'Scientific Lodge No. 105 Cambridge' in Membership Records: Foreign
and Country Lodges, Nos. 17–145, 1837–1862. London: Library and
Museum of Freemasonry (manuscript)
^ M. Merrington and J. Golden (1976) A List of the Papers and
Correspondence of Sir
Francis Galton (1822–1911) held in The
Manuscripts Room, The Library, University College London. The Galton
University College London
University College London (typescript), at Section 88 on
^ Bulmer 2003, p. 5.
^ Galton 1853.
^ Bulmer 2003, p. 16.
^ "Life of
Francis Galton by
Karl Pearson Vol 2 : image 320".
galton.org. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
Francis Galton FRS FRGS – I7570 – Individual
Information – PhpGedView". Stanford.edu. Retrieved 22 April
^ "Francis Galton: Meteorologist". Galton.org. Retrieved 22 April
^ Bulmer 2003, p. 29.
^ a b c d e Gillham, Nicholas Wright (2001). A Life of Sir Francis
Galton: From African
Exploration to the Birth of Eugenics, Oxford
University Press. ISBN 0-19-514365-5.
^ Hergenhahn, B.R., (2008). An Introduction to the History of
Psychology. Colorado: Wadsworth Pub.
^ "Africa for the Chinese by Francis Galton". Galton.org. Retrieved 22
^ "Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development by Francis
Galton". galton.org. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
^ a b Stigler, Stephen M. (1 July 2010). "Darwin, Galton and the
Statistical Enlightenment". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society,
Series A. 173 (3): 469–482. doi:10.1111/j.1467-985X.2010.00643.x.
^ Galton, Sir Francis (1 January 1914).
Hereditary Genius: An Inquiry
Into Its Laws and Consequences. Macmillan. p. 57.
^ a b c Stigler, Stephen (1986). History of Statistics: The
Measurement of Uncertainty Before 1900. Cambridge and London: The
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. pp. 265–299.
^ a b Galton, Francis (1885). "Opening address as President of the
Anthropology Section of the British Association for the Advancement of
Science, September 10th, 1885, at Aberdeen". Nature. 32:
^ Galton, Francis (1886). "Regression Towards Mediocrity in Hereditary
Stature". The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great
Britain and Ireland. 15: 246–263. doi:10.2307/2841583.
^ Galton, Francis (1886). "
Hereditary stature". Nature. 33: 295–298.
^ a b c Galton, Francis (1877). "Typical laws of heredity". Nature.
15: 492–495, 512–514, 532–533. Bibcode:1877Natur..15..492..
^ Bulmer, Michael (1998). "Galton's law of ancestral heredity".
Heredity. 81: 579–585. doi:10.1038/sj.hdy.6884180.
^ Gillham, Nicholas (2001). "Evolution by Jumps:
Francis Galton and
William Bateson and the Mechanism of Evolutionary Change". Genetics.
159 (4): 1383–1392.
^ Gillham, Nicholas (9 August 2013). "The Battle Between the
Biometricians and the Mendelians: How Sir Francis Galton's Work Caused
his Disciples to Reach Conflicting Conclusions About the Hereditary
Mechanism". Sci & Educ. 24: 61–75.
^ Science Show – 25/11/00: Sir Francis Galton
^ Bulmer 2003, pp. 116–118.
^ Darwin, C. R. 1871. Pangenesis. Nature. A Weekly Illustrated Journal
of Science 3 (27 April): 502-503.
^ Bulmer 2003, pp. 105–107.
^ Nelson, R; Pettersson, M; Carlborg, C (23 October 2013). "A century
after Fisher: time for a new paradigm in quantitative genetics".
Trends in Genetics. 29: 669–676. doi:10.1016/j.tig.2013.09.006.
^ a b c d Galton, Francis (1 January 1885). "On the Anthropometric
Laboratory at the Late International Health Exhibition". The Journal
of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 14:
205–221. doi:10.2307/2841978. JSTOR 2841978.
^ a b Galton, Francis (1884). Anthropometric Laboratory. William
^ Gillham, Nicholas W. (2001). "SIR FRANCIS GALTON AND THE BIRTH OF
EUGENICS". Annual Review of Genetics. 35: 83–102.
doi:10.1146/annurev.genet.35.102401.090055. PMID 11700278.
^ Galton, Francis (1 January 1888). "Co-Relations and Their
Measurement, Chiefly from Anthropometric Data". Proceedings of the
Royal Society of London. 45: 135–145. doi:10.1098/rspl.1888.0082.
^ Caprara, G. V. & Cervone, D. (2000). Personality: Determinants,
Dynamics, and Potentials. New York: Cambridge University Press.
p. 68. ISBN 0-521-58310-1.
^ a b c Clauser, Brian E. (2007). The Life and Labors of Francis
Galton: A review of Four Recent Books About the Father of Behavioral
Statistics. 32(4), p. 440–444.
^ Chad Denby. "Science Timeline". Science Timeline. Retrieved 22 April
^ Galton, F., "Vox Populi", Nature, 7 March 1907
^ "The Ballot Box", Nature, 28 March 1907
^ Wallis, Kenneth F (2014). "Revisiting Francis Galton's forecasting
competition". Statistical Science. 29: 420–424.
^ Surowiecki, James (2004). The Wisdom of Crowds. Random House, New
Francis Galton (20 December 1906). "Cutting a Round Cake on
Scientific Principles (Letters to the Editor)" (PDF). Nature. 75
(1938): 173. Bibcode:1906Natur..75..173G. doi:10.1038/075173c0.
Francis Galton (1886) Anthropological Miscellanea: "Regression
towards mediocrity in hereditary stature," The Journal of the
Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 15:
246–263 ; see Plate X.
^ Bravais, A (1846). "Analyse mathématique sur les probabilités des
erreurs de situation d'un point" [Mathematical analysis of the
probabilities of errors in a point's location]. Mémoires presents par
divers savants à l'Académie des Sciences de l'Institut de France.
Sciences Mathématiques et Physiques. 9: 255–332.
^ Galton, Francis (1888). "Co-relations and their measurement, chiefly
from anthropometric data". Proceedings of the
Royal Society of London.
45: 135–145. doi:10.1098/rspl.1888.0082.
^ Bulmer 2003, pp. 191–196.
^ Bulmer 2003, pp. 182–184.
^ Bulmer 2003, p. 184.
^ Galton, F (1889). Natural Inheritance. London: Macmillan.
^ Stigler, Stephen M. (1 July 2010). "Darwin, Galton and the
Statistical Enlightenment". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society,
Series A. 173 (3): 469–482. doi:10.1111/j.1467-985X.2010.00643.x.
^ Jensen, Arthur R. (April 2002). "Galton's Legacy to Research on
Intelligence". Journal of Biosocial Science. 34 (2): 145–172.
^ Galton, F (1878). "Composite portraits" (PDF). Journal of the
Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 8: 132–142.
^ Daniel Akiva Novak. Realism, photography, and nineteenth-century
Cambridge University Press, 2008 ISBN 0-521-88525-6
^ Conklin, Barbara Gardner., Robert Gardner, and Dennis Shortelle.
Encyclopedia of Forensic Science: a Compendium of Detective Fact and
Fiction. Westport, Conn.: Oryx, 2002. Print.
^ Bulmer 2003, p. 35.
^ Innes, Brian (2005). Body in Question: Exploring the Cutting Edge in
Forensic Science. New York: Amber Books. pp. 32–33.
^ "Life of
Francis Galton by
Karl Pearson Vol 3a : image 470". 17
June 2006. Archived from the original on 17 June 2006. Retrieved 9
^ Galton, Francis (20 August 1996) . The Eugenic College of
Kantsaywhere (link to PDF). DigiTool. University College London.
Retrieved 15 May 2017. [permanent dead link]
^ Galton, Francis; Sargent, Lyman Tower (2001). "The Eugenic College
of Kantsaywhere". Utopian Studies. Penn State University Press. 12
(2): 191–209. ISSN 1045-991X. JSTOR 20718325.
OCLC 5542769084. (Registration required (help)).
^ Galton, Francis (1909). Memories of My Life:. New York: E. P. Dutton
Brookes, Martin (2004). Extreme Measures: The Dark Visions and Bright
Ideas of Francis Galton. Bloomsbury.
Bulmer, Michael (2003). Francis Galton: Pioneer of Heredity and
Biometry. Johns Hopkins University Press.
Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. Sir
Francis Galton and the Study of Heredity in
the Nineteenth Century. Garland (1985). Originally Cowan's PhD
dissertation, Johns Hopkins University, (1969).
Ewen, Stuart and Elizabeth Ewen (2006; 2008) "Nordic Nightmares,"
pp. 257–325 in Typecasting: On the Arts and Sciences of Human
Inequality, Seven Stories Press. ISBN 978-1-58322-735-0
Forrest, D.W. (1974). Francis Galton: The Life and Work of a Victorian
Genius. Taplinger. ISBN 0-8008-2682-5.
Galton, Francis (1909). Memories of My Life:. New York: E. P. Dutton
Gillham, Nicholas Wright (2001). A Life of Sir Francis Galton: From
Exploration to the Birth of Eugenics, Oxford University Press.
Pearson, Karl. "The life, letters and labours of
Francis Galton (3
vols. 1914, 1924, 1930)".
Posthuma D, De Geus EJ, Baaré WF, Hulshoff Pol HE, Kahn RS, Boomsma
DI (2002). "The association between brain volume and intelligence is
of genetic origin". Nature Neuroscience. 5 (2): 83–84.
doi:10.1038/nn0202-83. PMID 11818967.
Quinche, Nicolas, Crime, Science et Identité. Anthologie des textes
fondateurs de la criminalistique européenne (1860–1930). Genève:
Slatkine, 2006, 368p., passim.
Stigler, S. M. (2010). "Darwin, Galton and the Statistical
Enlightenment". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A.
173 (3): 469–482. doi:10.1111/j.1467-985X.2010.00643.x.
Francis Galton at Find a Grave
Find more aboutFrancis Galtonat's sister projects
Media from Wikimedia Commons
Quotations from Wikiquote
Texts from Wikisource
Data from Wikidata
Galton's Complete Works at Galton.org (including all his published
books, all his published scientific papers, and popular periodical and
newspaper writing, as well as other previously unpublished work and
Francis Galton at Project Gutenberg
Works by or about
Francis Galton at Internet Archive
Francis Galton at
LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
The Galton Machine or Board demonstrating the normal distribution on
Portraits of Galton from the National Portrait Gallery (United
O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Francis Galton", MacTutor
History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews .
Biography and bibliography in the
Virtual Laboratory of the Max Planck
Institute for the History of Science
History and Mathematics
Human Memory – University of Amsterdam website with test based
on the work of Galton
An 8-foot-tall (2.4 m) Probability Machine (named Sir Francis
Galton) comparing stock market returns to the randomness of the beans
dropping through the quincunx pattern. on
YouTube from Index Funds
Catalogue of the Galton papers held at UCL Archives
"Composite Portraits", by Francis Galton, 1878 (as published in the
Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland,
"Enquiries into Human Faculty and its Development", book by Francis
Francis Galton, Management of Savages, The Art of Travel, 1861.
The Scientific Way to Cut a Cake on YouTube, demonstrated by Alex
Copley Medallists (1901–1950)
Josiah Willard Gibbs
Josiah Willard Gibbs (1901)
Joseph Lister (1902)
Eduard Suess (1903)
William Crookes (1904)
Dmitri Mendeleev (1905)
Élie Metchnikoff (1906)
Albert A. Michelson
Albert A. Michelson (1907)
Alfred Russel Wallace
Alfred Russel Wallace (1908)
George William Hill
George William Hill (1909)
Francis Galton (1910)
George Darwin (1911)
Felix Klein (1912)
Ray Lankester (1913)
J. J. Thomson
J. J. Thomson (1914)
Ivan Pavlov (1915)
James Dewar (1916)
Pierre Paul Émile Roux
Pierre Paul Émile Roux (1917)
Hendrik Lorentz (1918)
William Bayliss (1919)
Horace Tabberer Brown
Horace Tabberer Brown (1920)
Joseph Larmor (1921)
Ernest Rutherford (1922)
Horace Lamb (1923)
Edward Albert Sharpey-Schafer
Edward Albert Sharpey-Schafer (1924)
Albert Einstein (1925)
Frederick Gowland Hopkins
Frederick Gowland Hopkins (1926)
Charles Scott Sherrington
Charles Scott Sherrington (1927)
Charles Algernon Parsons
Charles Algernon Parsons (1928)
Max Planck (1929)
William Henry Bragg
William Henry Bragg (1930)
Arthur Schuster (1931)
George Ellery Hale
George Ellery Hale (1932)
Theobald Smith (1933)
John Scott Haldane
John Scott Haldane (1934)
Charles Thomson Rees Wilson
Charles Thomson Rees Wilson (1935)
Arthur Evans (1936)
Henry Hallett Dale
Henry Hallett Dale (1937)
Niels Bohr (1938)
Thomas Hunt Morgan
Thomas Hunt Morgan (1939)
Paul Langevin (1940)
Thomas Lewis (1941)
Robert Robinson (1942)
Joseph Barcroft (1943)
Geoffrey Ingram Taylor (1944)
Oswald Avery (1945)
Edgar Douglas Adrian (1946)
G. H. Hardy
G. H. Hardy (1947)
Archibald Hill (1948)
George de Hevesy
George de Hevesy (1949)
James Chadwick (1950)
Historical race concepts
List of racially mixed groups
Robert Bennett Bean
Johann Friedrich Blumenbach
Alice Mossie Brues
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon
Samuel A. Cartwright
Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Sonia Mary Cole
Carleton S. Coon
Egon Freiherr von Eickstedt
Stanley Marion Garn
Reginald Ruggles Gates
Arthur de Gobineau
Hans F. K. Günther
Frederick Ludwig Hoffman
Thomas Henry Huxley
Calvin Ira Kephart
Robert E. Kuttner
Georges Vacher de Lapouge
Felix von Luschan
Lewis H. Morgan
Samuel George Morton
Josiah C. Nott
Isaac La Peyrère
Ludwig Hermann Plate
James Cowles Prichard
William Z. Ripley
Charles Gabriel Seligman
Samuel Stanhope Smith
William Graham Sumner
Thomas Griffith Taylor
John H. Van Evrie
Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer
An Essay upon the Causes of the Different Colours of People in
Different Climates (1744)
The Outline of History of Mankind (1785)
Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question (1849)
An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races
An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1855)
The Races of Europe (Ripley, 1899)
The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1899)
Race Life of the Aryan Peoples
Race Life of the Aryan Peoples (1907)
Heredity in Relation to
Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development (1916)
The Passing of the Great Race
The Passing of the Great Race (1916)
The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy
The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy (1920)
The Myth of the Twentieth Century
The Myth of the Twentieth Century (1930)
Annihilation of Caste
Annihilation of Caste (1936)
The Races of Europe (Coon, 1939)
An Investigation of Global Policy with the Yamato Race as Nucleus
The Race Question
The Race Question (1950)
Great chain of being
History of anthropometry
in the United States
Nazism and race
in the United States
ISNI: 0000 0001 2066 307X
BNF: cb15290046c (data)