Friday, June 04, 2021

Galton Professor of Eugenics

Yesterday's Lionel Penrose was for a while Galton Professor of Eugenics at UCL


Penrose was a central figure in British medical genetics following World War II. From 1945 to 1965, he worked as Galton Professor at the Galton Laboratory at University College London. The first title of his chair was "Professor of Eugenics" (1945–1963), then he had it changed to "Professor of Human Heredity" (1963–1965). According to his successor, Professor Harry Harris, Penrose “never liked the name 'eugenics’, because it seemed to him to be too much associated with uninformed and dangerous policies of racial purification." Harris also reported the "long delay" in changing this name was due to "legal problems" associated with the original donation from Francis Galton and described how Penrose simply ignored the "eugenics" element of his job title.

That means that he personally is in the clear, but I still can't help but find the title from the perspective of 2021 irresistibly funny as opposed to infuriating.

Personally when it comes to eugenics I am with - as I am on so may other things - with Chesterton.  In 1922, but writing about a time before the Great War, he reminded us

It was a time when this theme was the topic of the hour; when eugenic babies (not visibly very distinguishable from other babies) sprawled all over the illustrated papers; when the evolutionary fancy of Nietzsche was the new cry among the intellectuals; and when Mr. Bernard Shaw and others were considering the idea that to breed a man like a cart-horse was the true way to attain that higher civilisation, of intellectual magnanimity and sympathetic insight, which may be found in cart-horses.

He was right when everyone else was wrong. That is a lot harder and nobler than what goes on now, when virtue signalling nobodies queue up to kick people when they are down, destroyed over the slightest transgression with no hope of reprieve,

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