Top university split in a row over erasing ‘racist’ science pioneers
Based at University College London, they developed the first fingerprinting methods, the use of statistics in health and genetics research, early birth-control science and many other key technologies of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
But now these trailblazers – who include Francis Galton and Marie Stopes – are under investigation. A committee of inquiry has been set up by UCL to probe their links with eugenic causes and to consider if buildings, lecture theatres and libraries named after them should be re-titled.
Those being investigated along with Galton, who developed the first weather maps, studied the inheritance of abilities, and devised ways to classify fingerprints, and Stopes, who established Britain’s first birth-control clinics, are: distinguished archaeologist Flinders Petrie and Karl Pearson, who founded the world’s first university statistics department at UCL.
All of these researchers were committed eugenicists who believed there were superior races of humans who should be allowed to breed more freely than those from inferior races.
However, the idea has been attacked by Professor Steve Jones, former head of genetics at UCL. “Renaming the buildings and chairs named after UCL luminaries would be a remarkably bad idea,” he told the Observer.
“Galton’s name has been inextricably linked with racist, misogynist and hierarchical ideologies,” he wrote to the university five years ago.