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Galton archive now online

10 July 2014

UCL Special Collections, in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust, have announced the launch of a digitised archive of papers by the Victorian scientist, Sir Francis Galton.

Galton archive now online

Containing a substantial number of biographical notes and images spanning several generations, the digitised collection also includes a number of letters between Galton and notable Victorian scientists, travellers, and politicians including his cousin Charles Darwin and Joseph Hooker.

The comprehensive collection has been added to the Codebreakers: Makers of Modern Genetics project, which aims to provide a documentary record of modern genetics, not only from a scientific perspective, but also from political, economic, technological, social, cultural and personal viewpoints.

UCL’s Galton Archive comprises an extensive collection of Galton’s personal papers, scientific research and correspondence, bequeathed to UCL on his death in 1911.

Known primarily for his work on heredity and eugenics, Galton also made significant contributions to the fields of statistics, meteorology, criminology and crime science.

Katy Makin (UCL Library Services), the Project Archivist, said: “Galton is perhaps best known for his studies into heredity, more specifically as the ‘father’ of eugenics. It is his eugenic ideas, and especially their appropriation in the 20th century, that colour perceptions of Galton and make writing about him a challenge. However, although many of Galton’s theories, including eugenics, have been soundly discredited, these were only part of the work he carried out over his lifetime.

“Working on cataloguing and conserving Galton’s archive has been a challenge because, despite his affluence, he had a habit of making his own stationery and recycling paper wherever possible. It is not always easy to tell if you are looking at something profoundly interesting or just old notes re-used as packaging for something else.”

Not to be confused with the Galton Archive, the Galton Collection, which includes Galton's personal effects, custom-made instruments used in his research and objects from the Galton Laboratory, is housed separately at UCL.

Both the Archive and the Collection are valuable resources for teaching at UCL, schools, and for researchers with an interest in the history of science and cultural studies.



  • Galton's first edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species (Credit: UCL Special Collections)