RSS president Deborah Ashby has written to University College London regarding an inquiry into its historical links with eugenics.
The inquiry, chaired by Leeds law professor Iyiola Solanke, has asked for recommendations regarding current spaces and buildings named after prominent eugenicists – in particular the Victorian scientist Francis Galton.
Deborah acknowledges in her letter that Galton, who coined the term ‘eugenics’ and is widely seen as the founder of the Eugenics movement, is a ‘special case’ and therefore ‘it could be argued that his name should not be actively celebrated.’ However, she asks for there not to be a ‘blanket condemnation of the whole man’, who, as well as being a major innovator in statistics, was also an early developer of weather forecasts and the use of fingerprints in crime detection.
Deborah also urges for there to be no link made between other early statisticians’ views on eugenics and the statistical techniques that they developed, particularly since ideas around heritability and eugenics were largely considered to be ‘respectable’ in the late 19th and early 20th century. ‘It would be absurd if there were criticism of the term "regression" simply because it was invented by Galton to refer to the limited heritability between generations,’ Deborah concludes.
The inquiry is due to complete at the end of July 2019.