Essay on original genius duff | Taco Casa Bali
Later scientists (and historians of science) came to challenge what Stephen J. Gould termed the “unholy alliance” of evolution and quantification that fueled many Victorian theories of genius (74). Yet we are, in many ways, still in thrall to the basic tenets of Galton’s inquiry into hereditary genius, and many of the same anxieties that underscore his study still propel discussions of creative and intellectual exceptionalism. The field of the psychology of intellect, especially sociometrics and historiometrics, grew in his wake. Galton originally turned to biography, and especially the biographical dictionary, as a means of ensuring through a sheer mass of data a kind of statistical objectivity. To be sure, even the sources that Galton used demonstrate the same kinds of prejudices that appear in works like Craik’s and Linton’s—including the disparagement of the ease of genius past in favour of stories of diligent genius present. Because later scientists kept employing the same data sets, those prejudices became ever more difficult to dislodge.
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Francis Galton’s Hereditary Genius (1869, reissued 1892) claimed to be the first statistical study of genius. Drawing on data culled from biographies and biographical dictionaries of “eminent” figures, he argued that creative and intellectual exceptionalism was measurable and heritable. Despite their claims of objectivity, the two editions demonstrate the extent to which scientific theories of intelligence and creativity were shaped by popular discourse, particularly that surrounding the figure of the Romantic genius and the ascendant Aesthete. This essay explores the influence of cultural notions of genius on Galton’s studies and notes briefly the lasting impact of his methodology, which forms the basis of IQ testing still in use today.
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