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Saturday, 25 May 2019

My verbal presentation to the Commission of Inquiry into the History of Eugenics at UCL


                                                                               14th May 2019
Dear Professor Leonard
RE: Invitation to meet with the Commission of Inquiry into the History of Eugenics at UCL
I write to invite you to address the Commission of Inquiry into the History of Eugenics at UCL.
The Inquiry is now at the stage where it would be helpful to gather insights from experts around the UCL Community. Your name was proposed by members of the Inquiry as a person who could aid our understanding of the complex issues under exploration. Your testimonial will also assist in the formulation of recommendations to UCL, to be included in our final Report at the end of the year.
I would be grateful if you could attend - in person (in Room 104/106 UCL Main Library) or via Skype - at 14.45 on July 19th 2019. We would require just 30 minutes of your time in total, comprising a 15-minute presentation based on the three questions below, followed by 15 minutes for questions from the members of the Commission.
It would assist our planning greatly if you could confirm your availability before May 31st 2019. We can try to reschedule to another sitting of the Commission if a different date or time would suit you better. 
The three questions for the presentation are as follows:
1. How did you become aware of the history of eugenics at UCL? What does this mean to you and did knowledge of this history change your perception of UCL?
2. How do you think UCL should address this going forwards? Should action be taken in relation to the names of prizes, spaces and endowed professorships on campus, especially those named after persons who founded and zealously promoted eugenics? e.g. The Galton Chair (formerly the Chair of Eugenics); the Galton Lecture Theatre; the Pearson Building; the Petrie Museum

3. How do you think UCL should approach its historical role in the teaching and research of eugenics in the future?
Please note that if you prefer, you may also submit a written statement based on the above questions by replying to this email address.
Thank you in advance for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely,
Professor Iyiola Solanke
Chair, Commission of Inquiry into the History of Eugenics at UCL


SCOTT FORSTER AND I ATTENDED THE HEARING IN THE UCL LIBRARY ON 19TH JULY 19, My verbal submission was very favourably received by the members of the Commission, with much more enthusiasm than we could have ever dreamt of. During the verbal version I referred to our WRITTEN SUBMISSION
     But several further issues were addressed in the verbal submission, 

UCL.Eugenics Inquiry via 

1:12 PM (7 hours ago)
to meUCL.EugenicsScott

Dear Tom and Scott,

Thank you for taking the time to contribute to the work of the Commission of Inquiry into the history of eugenics at UCL. We are very grateful for your testimonial and the insights that you shared when you attended the meeting last Friday. The Commission particularly appreciated your open and honest answers to the questions posed.

The documents you sent (including your verbal presentation and these additional documents) have been uploaded to the Commission’s shared folder. As agreed at the meeting, we will make these public in due course.

Thanks once again for a tour de force of a presentation, which was highly informative and enjoyable.

Best wishes,

Professor Iyiola Solanke
Chair, Commission of Inquiry into the History of Eugenics at UCL
                                  Here is:the verbal submission

Thank you, Professor Solanke,

1. When I was studying for a Masters Degree and Ph.D. in the Statistics Department at UCL between 1970 and 1972, I was taught to revere and respect the pioneering contributions to Statistics and Eugenics by Karl Pearson and Sir Ronald Fisher as disciples of Sir Francis Galton.
But I recently became absolutely disgusted, while working on my Scottish mental health campaign, when I discovered that the efforts of Galton and his followers to improve the human race were absolutely devastating to the well being and mental health of vast swathes of the world's population.
My colleague Scott Forster and I have now studied the deeply racist and class conscious nature of many of Galton's, Pearson's and Fisher's' outrageous assertions, which fuelled patriarchal colonialism and brutalised, marginalized and oppressed people throughout the world. I feel extremely disturbed by our discoveries, and utterly appalled by all the attempts at whitewashing, for example by the President of the Royal Statistical Society, and by Professor Stephen Stigler of the University of Chicago in the June 2019 issue of Significance.

A selection of the results of our historical investigations are described in our written document.

I agree with the Swedish statistician Nathaniel Joselson in his Meditations on Inclusive Statistics that Pearson and Fisher employed at least three supposedly objective statistical techniques (significance tests for differences, correlation, and discriminant analysis) in the context of falsely objectifying their conclusions in Eugenics. I am dismayed that in so doing, they seem to have detrimentally affected the subject of Statistics to this very day,
I also conclude that Galton and Fisher were unscientific in regards to Eugenics, and Pearson was statistically ruthless on these matters. Pearson was unapologetically ableist, racist, anti-Semitic and colonialist.

Galton wrote an extremely anti-semitic letter to Alphone de Candolle in 1884. This met with Karl Pearson's approval in his 1924 biography of Francis Galton. Furthermore, Galton's influence on the German eugenicist Alfred Ploetz in 1904 preceded the cruel genocide of the Herero and Namaqua tribes in Namibia from 1904 to 1908 and the dreadful medical experiments on tribe members by Dr. Eugen Fischer whose hair gauge was later discovered in the UCL Museum.

Galton, Pearson, and Fisher were all advocates of white supremacy being very active and influential in international terms. For example, the USA, Canada and Germany latched very quickly onto their teachings, with horrendous consequences. Pearson published many of his racist findings in his two UCL house journals Biometrika, between 1901 and 1936, and the Annals of Eugenics, from 1925 onwards.

In our section 2.1, we describe how Galton used pseudo-science to justify his many contributions to Eugenics. We for example report that

Galton estimated that the African people were 'two grades' below the Anglo-Saxons' position in the normal frequency distribution of general mental ability, which gave claim to the scientific validation of Africans' mental inferiority compared with Anglo-Saxons.

Galton thereby imposed his white supremacist measures of mental ability on Africans, and used statistical pseudo-science involving the conveniently renamed normal distribution, a very misleading theoretical construction, to justify British Colonialism.

Galton had an obsession for the normal distribution and falsely believed that many types of measurements were normally distributed.

Moreover, the damaging misapplications of the normal curve which Galton initiated have continued to the current day e.g. during investigations of feeblemindedness, in mental testing, and in medicine. A great many human beings have thereby been falsely rejected as inferior or abnormal.

In Part Two of his splendid 2002 book Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill, Robert Whitaker describes how the rise of eugenics during the first half of the twentieth century did away in large part with moral treatment of the mentally ill in the U.S., and led to forced sterilizations and horrendous treatments of those within asylums.

During the 1930s, the highly eminent psychiatrist Lionel Penrose developed non-verbal intelligence tests while attempting to investigate mental defect and its possible genetic causes. In 1945, Penrose was to become the third Galton Professor of Eugenics at UCL,, following which he worked closely with the 1600 or so patients in Harperbury Hospital in London's so called lunatic fringe while strongly influenced by his biological model for mental deficiency.

Many anti-psychotic drugs were introduced around the world during the 1950s, starting with the debilitating and much dreaded chlorpromazine, more commonly known nowadays as Largactil.

By this time Penrose was regarded as a leading expert in schizophrenia and other defect disorders, and the new anti-psychotics were used to treat and mistreat these disorders [ Note added later: Maybe I am alone in asserting that, despite the ways he has been publicly described, Penrose was a medical eugenicist, strongly influenced, and mislead in terms of bad statistics, by Galton, Fisher, and Penrose, whose work turned out to be highly damaging to vast swathes of our vulnerable populations]

I therefore find it very disconcerting that in papers describing the screening of psychotic behaviour by non-verbal intelligence tests, Lionel Penrose used a simplistic modification of Fisher's discriminant analysis together with bivariate NORMAL assumptions to supposedly objectify their highly subjective conclusions.

In his highly influential 1949 book the Biology of Mental Defect, the fourth edition of which was published in 1972, Penrose followed Galton and Pearson by including as mentally defective people situated in the tail of a normal curve supposedly representing the distribution of general intelligence in the population. I find this procedure to be both ad hoc and discriminatory e.g. towards children with special abilities.

In his 1975 book Prenatal Diagnosis and Selective Abortion, the Fourth Galton Professor Harry Harris advocated the abortion of foetuses when the baby is predicted, via genetic markers, to be mental defective, (e.g. suffering from Down's syndrome). So that sort of eugenics was still going on, amidst all the gloss, while I was at UCL.

In their online advertising, the Galton Institute, while supposedly disapproving of Eugenics, nevertheless continues to publicly praise and extol Sir Francis Galton's apparent statistical achievements, many of which are based on his harmful misuses of the normal curve. This is completely unacceptable.

In our section 2.2., we describe how Pearson used bad, falsely objective Statistics to justify existing systems of oppression.

For example, in the Annals of Eugenics (1925) Karl Pearson and Margaret Moul wrote a lengthy article entitled The Problem of Alien Immigration into Great Britain, illustrated by an Examination of Russian and Polish Jewish Children, which is full of questionable
Statistics. The falsely objective concepts of correlation and mean squared contingency were used to extract a variety of subjective conclusions about the Jewish children from a sprawling non-randomised data set with a large number of explanatory variables relating to anthropometric measurements, medical information, sociological facts, and intelligence ratings. By reference to even cruder statistical techniques, the Jewish children were judged to be 'inferior' to 'native Gentile' children in about nine very carefully selected categories relating to health and hygiene, (In other words the authors seemed to pick and choose their variables in a manner which unfairly discredited the Jewish Children.). The authors thereby recommended in racist terms that the future immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe should be restricted.

I would also like to cite as key evidence to this inquiry, the terribly bad Statistics on pages 314 and 315 of the article by Pearson, Stouffer and David in the 1932 edition of Biometrika, which led the authors to make preposterous and unfounded insinuations in attempting to explain supposed differences between frequency distributions of cephalic indices measuring the headshapes of Jewish boys born in Eastern Europe, in England, and in the United States.

The British Eugenics Society, the International Society for Racial Hygiene in Berlin. and the U.S. Eugenics Records Office all maintained good contact during this period.

It has to be concluded that Karl Pearson's unscientific papers in the Annals of Eugenics and Biometrika were in combination highly damaging to Jews from Eastern Europe. This is something which UCL should not be permitted to whitewash.

In our section 2.3, we discuss Sir Ronald Fisher's remarkable leaps of logic when he found a high correlation between inter-generational fertility rates and a strong negative correlation between income and number of children. Fisher proposed giving family allowances to those defined as “fit” which inevitably with Fisher's eugenic class prejudices meant the wealthier. From 1932 to 1934, he was Chairman of the infamous family planning committee of the Eugenics Society.

In our section 3, we discuss the innumerable atrocious Crimes of Eugenics which have been perpetrated against humanity since Galton, Pearson, and Fisher.

I am appalled that Eugenics was rife at University College London in the Galton Lab, the Department of Applied Statistics, and other departments such as Psychology and Archaeology. Since Eugenics was influential at UCL long after Galton first coined the term in 1883, the failure is not only Galton's, Pearson's and Fisher's. Indeed, this should, first and foremost, be regarded as a profound institutional failure.

UCL has continued to allow conferences on eugenics and intelligence to be held on its ground from at least 2014 to 2018. UCL must truly apologise rather than give legitimacy to a 'marketplace of ideas' approach.

I am deeply ashamed that the subject of Statistics in its modern form was largely created by Galton, Pearson, and Fisher, and that my very own Alma mater was responsible for housing so many socially harmful academics. Trite apologies are not enough. Institutional changes are called for.
2. A. I would very much support the creation of a Centre for the Study of Race and Racism which could explore eugenics links to white supremacy and colonialism. This appears to be in its early beginnings, following the appointment of a Professor of Race and Racism.

B. I would also like to recommend the creation of a Centre for the Intersectional Treatment of Mental Distress which while rejecting a reductionist medical model would investigate how to achieve improvements in mental distress diagnosis and treatment exploring the relational interaction between biology, personal experience, stress, trauma, and socio-political conditions.

While psychiatry is still tainted by harmful, pseudo-scientific treatment programs, a centre of this type would do much to atone for the appalling number of sterilizations, misdiagnoses, gross maltreatments and deaths of people with mental health issues which have been brought about or influenced by Eugenics.

C. Since Pearson and Fisher once worked in the same Pearson building, I think that this building should be renamed following a vote by students and lecturers. I personally would like to name the building after Phyllis Wheatley, who was transported from Africa to America as a slave when still a child, but later visited Britain. She was the first African-American female poet to be published, and her her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral of 1773 made her famous both in Britain and America.

Furthermore, plaques bearing the true reality of what Pearson and Fisher actually did to the world together with a full apology should be maintained in perpetuity in the College quadrangle and in the entrance-way of the Department of Statistical Science.

D. UCL should seek ways of paying reparations to victims of eugenics world-wide. Which specific groups needs to be determined. Jewish groups or descendants of the victims of the Genocide in Namibia spring to mind initially. This must be done in a manner that is not tokenistic.

3. FUTURE TEACHING AND RESEARCH: As students have asked “why is my curriculum white?” we must thoroughly decolonise the curriculum by having it focus much more on the thought and research of non-white, non-European, and non-male thinkers and scientists. With continuing advice from the students, the curriculum should be broadened to make it more intersectional.

UCL needs to ensure that none of its present and future research e.g. relating to the human genome project, stem cell research, and new productive technologies, contributes to even further Eugenics. Finally, much more of UCL'
's research effort should be put into investigating novel ways of preventing climate change. This impacts disproportionately on women, people of colour and the indigenous peoples of the world.


Dear Professor Solanke and Dr. Meunier,

         Many thanks for the Committee's generous reactions to our written submission.

         At your request, I attach a copy of my verbal commission, together with a copy of the informal Galtnotes which I prepared for myself in advance of the meeting. These included details of how eugenics poisoned the Liberal Welfare reforms and the Welfare State, discussion of several scientists who opposed Eugenics early on, and details of how the US Eugenics Records Office influenced both America and Nazi Germany.

      You gladly have my and Scott Forster's permission to put all three of these documents into the public domain.

     I will later send you some further information relating to Scott's discussions with Professor Thomas subsequent to the Meetings.

    Maybe I could add that Dr. Neil Turner of the University of Edinburgh Medical School has advised me that Sir Francis Galton came from a Quaker family that acquired much of its wealth from arms trading and the slave trade. Maybe that was how Sir Francis was able to finance his researches and also the founding of the Galton Institute,

                     With all best wishes.

                                    Tom and Scott 

                                INFORMAL GALTNOTES

Fourth edition in 1972 of the Biology of Mental Defect, has eugenics content was prepared with the help of Helen Lang Brown of the Galton Lab and the American Jeremy MBerg.


QUOTE FROM SPECTATOR November 2009 article on how eugenics poisoned the welfare state
William Beveridge, argued in 1909 that ‘those men who through general defects are unable to fill such a whole place in industry, are to be recognised as “unemployable”. They must become the acknowledged dependents of the State… but with complete and permanent loss of all citizen rights — including not only the franchise but civil freedom and fatherhood.’ And that, except for the loss of fatherhood, has effectively been his legacy.

The Liberal Welfare Reforms of 1906-1914 were motivated by a desire after the Second Boer War to raise health to protect and maintain the British Empire because poverty was seen as impacting on the ability to defend and extend the British Empire. This politics is known as Social Imperialism.

Liberal Welfare Reforms included:-
  1. non compulsory Free School meals
  2. Very low paid means Tested Pensions for over 70s only if had been employed most of their life.
  3. Labour exchanges to help unemployed find work(mostly casual and part time).
  4. National Insurance Act 1911- compulsory health insurance which took money from the poorest an didn't cover all medical expenses.
  5. Medical Treatment for Children.
  6. Wage boards to limit low pay.

    They did reduce poverty to some extent but did not go far enough and had many qualifications.


In 1913, the eugenicists succeeded in getting the Mental Deficiency Act through parliament. As a result, somewhere between 40,000-65,000 men and women were incarcerated without trial, having been deemed to fall into various specious categories such as ‘feeble-minded’ or ‘morally defective’.”
( )


   This Act, though containing elements of welfare state provision, also made judgements on mental abilities as if they were fixed and biological rather than the result of material social conditions.


G5 NOTES Eugenics was not universally popular in its heydays. Early critics of Eugenics included Lester Frank Ward, GK Chesterton(see his 1917 book Eugenics and Other Evils), Franz Boas, Halliday Sutherland, and Aldous Huxley. Liberal MP Josiah Wedgwood would speak against the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act. This Act, though containing elements of welfare state provision, also made judgements on mental abilities as if they were fixed and biological rather than the result of material social conditions.

WARD WAS AMERICAN PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY strongly opposed eugenics and white supremacism
BOAS WAS GERMAN AMERICAN PROFESSOR OF ANTROPOLOGY Opposed Eugen Fischer in Berlin, though he did contribute data to Pearson, Stouffer, and David (1932)

HALLIDAY SUTHERLAND Physician opposed Karl Pearson suggestion that tubercolis victims should be sterilized because of 'heriditary nature of disease.

Josiah Wedgewood. Act is"It is a spirit of the Horrible Eugenic Society which is setting out to breed up the working class as though they were cattle.

Huxley controversial. He supported some Eugenics policies before writing Brave New World, which GK Chesterton regarded as anti-eugenic.

Based on Laughlin's proposals, laws were passed in 18 US States requiring the compulsory sterilization of the feeble-minded, the insane, criminals, epileptics, alcoholics, blind persons, deaf persons, deformed persons, and indigent persons

In 1933 the Reichstag  passed the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring in 1933, very similar to Laughlin's model Over 350,000 people were subsequently sterilized in Germany.

Laughlin received an honorary degree from the University of Heidelberg in 1936 for his contributions to the science of racial cleansing." In 1935, a review panel concluded that the ERO's research lacked scientific merit. By 1939, the Carnegie Institute withdrew funding for the ERO, and the office closed.

Paul A. Lombardo. The American Breed": Nazi Eugenics and the Origins of the Pioneer Fund. Albany Law Review, Vol. 65, No. 3, P. 822.


Rudolf Pintner, Donald G. Paterson, Psychological Basis for the Diagnosis of Feeble-Mindedness, 7 J. Am. Inst. Crim. L. & Criminology 32 (1916)
(following Charles Davenport)

Also Cyril Burt used intelligence tests to measure feeblemindedness immediately following Mental Deficiency Act of 1913. Also Lionel Penrose as in verbal version

Dear Professor Solanke and Dr. Meunier,

       Subsequent to yesterday's meeting, Scott and I talked  with Dr. Ash Talwar and Professor Mark Thomas in the University quadrangle,

       In response to his discussion with Professor Thomas, Scott has asked me to send you the attached minor additions which describe the activities of the eugenicist Dr Caleb Saleeby(1878- 1940)

      I would be grateful if you could circulate this fourth document to members of the Committee, and also put it on public record. 

                                                                  Many thanks,


                                MINOR ADDITIONS

Minor Additions.
By Scott Forster.

Due to the sheer spread of huge widely eugenics percolated society, I regret that we didn't get too include Herbert Spencer the Social Darwinist who coined the term “survival of the fittest” and is beloved by Thatcherites and right wing libertarians today who while not a eugenicist himself encouraged ideas which were associated with it.

In conversation with Mark G. Thomas I mentioned Dr Caleb Saleeby(1878- 1940)an English born physician and journalist known for his support of eugenics who attempted to distance himself from Eugenics bad reputation. Saleeby grew up in Edinburgh living in Stockbridge at 3 Malta Terrace according to the Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1895i with his mother Mrs Elias Saleeby and worked in the Royal Infirmary there. In 1906 he became a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In 1907 he was one of the founding members of the Eugenics Education Society later the Galton Institute. Saleeby was chairman of the National Birthrate commission and Vice-chairman of the National Council for Public Morals.ii In 1911 in his work Woman and Womanhood he argued for a Eugenic feminism(P.15).iii What he has in mind he describes as the demand for “the best women for our wives”. He was present at the 1912 Eugenics Conference in Londoniv He appears to have moved away from eugenics by around 1921.v

ii Dan Stone, Breeding Superman,P.103.

v Michael Tracy, The World of the Edwardian Child: As Seen in Arthur Mee's Children's ,P.63 .