Sir Francis Galton and Twin Research

Twin studies, which are very prevalent in certain areas of research today, were essentially conceived of in 19th century England by Francis Galton. Francis Galton was an independently wealthy man, a first cousin to famed geneticist Charles Darwin, who made the pursuit of knowledge his life's work. Galton was involved in an incredibly wide range of intellectual pursuits, including the exploration of Africa, weather patterns, statistics, and genetics.

Sir GaltonHis famous book on familial inheritance, entitled Hereditary Genius, was published in 1869, and strove to prove that the majority of humans' natural abilities were inherited. He followed up Genius six years later with a book called English Men of Science - Their Nature and Nurture , which coined the famous phrase that we hear so often today in the context of twin and family research.

Galton himself was not actually responsible for the idea of using twins in his research; in response to a paper that he had published, he received a letter from an Englishman who knew of two twins who had been seperated at birth and raised apart in different parts of England, and inquired if this would be of any importance to Galton, given his interest in nature and nurture. Galton took this idea and developed it into his research, publishing many papers on heredity and twins, including "The history of twins, as a criterion of the relative powers of nature and nurture" (1876) and "Twins and fertility" (1876).

Now twin studies are a common way for scientists and psychologists to investigate heredity and genetic issues. Famous twin studies have been conducted all over the world, in many European countries, and in many different states in the U.S. , including right here in Minnesota.

Photo Courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery, London

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