My recent discovery that Finney was once a eugenicist, has made me bit alarmed because he later developed systems for considering the safety of drugs. Many drugs are still unsafe. For example, most of our neurotoxic psychiatric drugs are quite unsafe, and their uninformed or enforced prescription is in itself a form of eugenics.. How thorough was the monitor that Finney developed? I leave this as an open question.
David Finney, famous for his work on developing systems which improved the safety of drugs, was my predecessor in the Chair of Statistics at the University of Edinburgh. He passed away in Morningside, Edinburgh in December 2018 at age 100, and I attended his funeral.
FINNEY AND DRUGS
EXCERPT: FROM INTERVIEW
Following my and Scott Forster's investigation of the History of Eugenics at UCL, I discovered that Finney, who was much influenced while working in the Galton Laboratory of University College London by the arch-Eugenicist Sir Ronald Fisher, was himself a Eugenicist (rather than a Eugenicist by association, as has since been suggested by one of Finney's erstwhile colleagues in Medical Statistics) Indeed, in 1952 Finney was elected Honorary Life Fellow of the Eugenics Society (later the Galton Institute), see Royal Society of Edinburgh Obituary (2018). He is listed as a Fellow in The Eugenics Review (1957) along with the likes of Hans Eysenck, and while he was working in the Department of Statistics at Aberdeen. (one of his colleagues there was the statistician, geneticist, and Fisherphile A.W.F. Edwards, but Edwards seems to have been focusing mainly on Likelihood at the time)
In 1940 and 1941, Finney published a series of three papers in the Annals of Eugenics on the Detection of Linkage resulting from his work with Fisher in the Galton Laboratory. See
Eugenics, Human Genetics and Human failings by Pauline Mazumbar
It is easy to purchase a copy of this splendid book, and to look up the references to Finney.
By reference to the pre-existing Eugenics literature, Finney for example suggested that there might be a linkage between the genes of allergic disease and the genes determining blood groups, MN groups,and the eye colour of man, and that allergic disease might be inherited.
Here is one of his papers THE DETECTION OF LINKAGE. Finney considers dominant and recessive abnormalities and concurs with Fisher's objectives "to give a treatment appropriate to pedigree collections in which the procedure of ascertainment is unknown and may vary from family to family".
Fisher's daughter Joan Fisher-Box reported in her 1978 book that this work was very much influenced by Fisher, though Finney produced most of the mathematics. In 1935, Fisher had published a paper in the Annals of Eugenics entitled 'The Detection of Linkage with dominant abnormalities'.
Finney's 1947 paper in the Annals of Eugenics on the truncated binomial distribution concerned the occurrence of abnormalities in samples of sibships, He also published several papers elsewhere on genetics, which I have not as yet investigated. The implications in Eugenics of his 1945 paper in the Annals of Eugenics on fractional factorial experiments are as yet unclear to me; However the factorial experiments at Rothampstead Agricultural Research Station with which Fisher was involved in his early years there seem to have been inspired by factorial Mendelian randomisation (using genetic variants to assess interactions). See Mazumdar (p119) and Rees, Foley, and Burgess (International Journal of Epidemiology, 2019)
Finney arrived to stay in Scotland in about 1956 following the death in 1955 of Sir Godfrey Thompson of Moray House in Edinburgh, Thompson's work on intelligence testing and the eleven plus is nowadays regarded as eugenicist, in similar fashion to Sir Cyril Burt's in England (as critically described in the first episode of the recent BBC4 series on Eugenics),. Note that intelligence tests all too frequently measure 'white middle class intelligence, and still often refer Galton-style to the thin-tailed normal distribution e.g.as a misleading population distribution for general intelligence.
Ian Deary's various laudatory accounts of Thomson's work.also mention (the eugenicists) Spearman and Eysenck.According to Deary et al (2010)
He (Finney)visited Thomson in Edinburgh as a young statistician. He later rose to be Professor of Statistics at the University of Edinburgh.
According to Bartholomew et al (p476) they discussed applications of quantal response theory for biossay (which is relevant to drug testing) to mental testing, While Finney and Thomson were both eugenicists at the time, it is unclear how much eugenics content there was to their conversation, but mental test theories involving probits and logits still abound in the psychometric literature, at times notoriously. Indeed in 1944, Finney wrote a paper on the application of probit analysis to the results of mental tests, and his 1947 book Probit Analysis, while primarily aimed a biomedical applications, also mentions mental tests as one of several areas of application, While I have also published a paper or two in this area, I now regard such mental test models as presenting as potentially unfair ways of measuring human ability,
Note that the relatively recent paper by Deary et al (2004) has very scary eugenic-style undertones and describes historical studies in Scotland which were funded by the Eugenics Society and the Rockefeller foundation. Finney and Deary were colleagues at the University of Edinburgh when Finney was Professor Emeritus of Statistics and Deary interviewed Finney later, in 2006,.
Note that the celebrated statistician Maurice Bartlett corresponded with Thompson on intelligence testing and controversial matters relating to factor analysis.. Bartholomew et al (2009) report that Derrick Lawley (later Finney's colleague at the University of Edinburgh) also worked with Thomson,
At least one of Finney's erstwhile colleagues at the University of Edinburgh has expressed surprise at the idea that Finney was a eugenicist, . I beg to differ. (Finney retired as half-time Chair of Statistics at Edinburgh in 1984, and I knew him later).
Further reading: Sir Ronald Fisher: Highly Negative Eugenicist