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Leonard Darwin – “If I had to write this again I should in Chapt XIII paint a more lurid picture.” His personal copy of ‘What is Eugenics?’

H Dominic W Stiles10 January 2020

Being interested in Charles Darwin and his family, and also interested in his son Leonard, a few years ago I borrowed a copy of one of Leonard Darwin’s books from the UCL library store, What is Eugenics? (1928).  The cover is rather tatty, well worn – the spine long gone.  Inside the front cover of this small, slim volume (88 pages), is a book plate, pictured here –

The book was one of those intended to replace UCL copies destroyed by bombing early in the war, as we see from the book plate.  Then comes a quotation from Rutilius Namatianus, a 5th century Gallo-Roman poet, “Ordo renascendi est crescere posse malis” – roughly translated as “the essence of renewal is the ability to grow from your calamities.”

The book was donated by the Eugenics Society, in March 1944.  Eugenics was a term coined by Sir Francis Galton, who was a cousin of Charles Darwin.

Turning to the short introduction, I saw a pencilled note, in Leonard Darwin’s hand.  It refers to the chapter entitled, “THE DETERIORATION OF OUR BREED” – “If I had to write this again I should in Chapt XIII paint a more lurid picture.”

Leonard Darwin was the only one of Darwin’s sons not to have some sort of a science background.  He joined the army, was for a short time an MP, and strongly supported the eugenics movement in Britain and internationally.  At that time, eugenics was far from being a fringe belief, nor was it confined to people with right wing politics.  Many of the views expressed in this book would have been widely held by educated people, particularly from the better off classes no doubt.

Throughout the book there are minor corrections that presumably were intended for a possible future edition.  He also has in the last page, a calculation of the number of copies sold, 2,130 in the first two years of publication, 1,800 in 1933, then numbers dropping, but down to 181 sales in 1938.  Interestingly,I wonder if the spurt in sales in 1933 was related to the election of Adolf Hitler, and the Nazi laws to allow for eugenic sterilization in May 1933.

The Chapters are as follows – the scans do not exactly correspond to the page numbers so the start of the next chapter may be with the previous scan. To see the pdf, having clicked on the link, then click on the grey pdf icon.

I. DOMESTIC ANIMALS wie 1-5 Cover, Contents & Introduction, & Ch 1

Attention to breed—Unconscious and conscious selection — Breeds of dogs, cattle, etc. — The farmer’s knowledge.

II. MAN’S ANCESTORS wie 4-15 Ch 2 & Ch 3

Improvements in mankind—Evolution and development, parallel processes — Struggle for existence —Natural selection.

III. OUR SURROUNDINGS

Acquired differences—Mutilations—Effects of education—Social contact—Large families and poverty.

IV. HEREDITARY QUALITIES wie 16-25 Ch 4, Ch 5, & start of Ch 6

Differences in mind and body at birth—Twins—Qualities of descendants—Regression to the mean.

V. EUGENIC METHODS

Stockyard methods—Overcrowding—Murder—Compulsory marriage—Birth rate, not death rate—Risks inevitable.

VI. THE MEN WE WANT  wie 26-35 end of Ch 6, Ch 7, & start of Ch 8

Elimination of defectives—Supermen—Inferior castes — Men judged by performance— Equality never obtainable.

VII. INFERIOR STOCKS

Elimination of unfit—Compulsion or persuasion—Rare diseases—Insanity—Epilepsy—Consumption—Doctors’ advice.

VIII. BIRTH CONTROL  wie 36-43 end of Ch 8, & Ch9

Checks on population—Family limitation—Continence—Contraception—Effects on health and morals —Dual campaign.

IX. STERILIZATION

Nature of operation—Not as punishment—Not compulsory — Promiscuous intercourse — Rapidity of results—Californian experiences.

X. FEEBLE-MINDEDNESS wie 44-55 Ch 10 & 11

Numbers— Causes — Heredity— Segregation— Guardianship—Sterilization—Marriage—Mental Deficiency Acts.

XI. THE HABITUAL CRIMINAL

Causes—Removal of children—Feeble-minded criminals — Reformatories — Training — Imprisonment —Segregation—Sterilization.

XII. WHO HO PAYS THE BILL ? wie 56-61 Ch 12

The Unfit—Taxation—Private charity—The inferior —Social contagion—Output of goods—The employ-able—The unemployed.

XIII. THE DETERIORATION OF OUR BREED wie 62-67 Ch 13

Differential birth rate — Multiplication of poorer classes—Effects produced—Conditions new—Decay of ancient civilisations.

XIV. EUGENICS IN THE FUTURE wie 68-73 Ch 14

Elimination of the inferior—Public assistance—Right to parenthood—Warnings as to size of family.

XV. BIGGER FAMILIES IN GOOD STOCKS wie 74-79 Ch 15

Small families—Character and wages—Morals and patriotism—Luxury—Ambition—Children’s welfare—Highly educated women.

XVI. FINANCIAL AIDS TO PARENTHOOD wie 78-83 Ch 16

Larger families, their causes and how to promote them—Family allowances—Income tax—Salaries—Scholarships.

XVII. SELECTION IN MARRIAGE wie 84-88 Ch 17

Benefits and disadvantages—Opportunities for meeting—Marriage with good stock—Cousin marriages—Medical certificates.

Interestingly, neither Leonard Darwin, nor Francis Galton, had offspring.  Leonard Darwin died in 1943, and I suppose left his books to the Eugenics Society.  Leonard Darwin had a long correspondence with the evolutionary biologist, R.A. Fisher that has been digitised – you can see that here – https://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/handle/2440/3860

The book is now with UCL Special Collections.

You can read about Deaf people and eugenics, in Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe, edited by Donna F. Ryan and John S. Schuchman, Gallaudet University Press, 2002.

I have mentioned eugenics before in the blog – see the item ‘Breeders of the Deaf’.

This blog was edited on 9th of March and a few lines were removed that expressed a heavily qualified opinion.

Ralph Duncombe Jackson of the British Deaf and Dumb Association

H Dominic W Stiles31 October 2016

Ralph Duncombe Jackson was born in South Shields in 1848, eldest son of Robert Jackson and his wife Charlotte.  We are told that he was deafened at the age of four from an attack of scarlet fever (Ephphatha, from which this is broadly taken).  That would have been in 1852/3.  He was educated at the Newcastle ‘Northern Counties School for the Deaf‘, which would have meant that he was taught by William Neil.

Ralph married a deaf lady Jane Walker in 1871.  She is described in the 1891 census as deaf from childhood, and Jane’s sister Isabella, living next door in Normanby St, Monkwearmouth, is also described as deaf.  Isabella’s husband, William Morrison, a millsawyer aged 42, was like his brother-in-law Ralph, deaf from scarlet fever.

Ralph had a varied career, unfortunately interrupted by ill-health, though his obituary does not tell us what form that took.  He began as a compositor, working on the Daily Post – I have no idea about the Daily Post, as it does not appear on the British Newspaper Archive.  If you know, please leave a note.  At any rate, his health forced him from that job and he became a grocer in Normanby Street, Monkwearmouth.  He became a missioner to the local deaf community in the urban north-east, and in 1898 became a ‘Scripture Reader’ for the Northumberland and Durham Mission, eventually becoming a  full time missioner.  Unfortunately we have no local mission reports before 1920, though the Northumberland and Durham Mission dates from 1876.  He was long a member of the British Deaf and Dumb Association, ‘almost from its formation’, acting as a local secretary when he lived in Sunderland.

Ralph and Jane had three daughters, and a son Ralph who emigrated to New Zealand.  He died in 1910 after having a major operation and then developing pneumonia.Duncombe Jackson  His funeral was so well attended by friends that there was insufficient room in the chapel for all to be seated.

Death of Mr. R. Duncombe Jackson, Ephphatha, 1910, no.29 p.107 (picture)

Letter, Deaf and Dumb Times (June 1890) p10-11

Wills and Probate

1891 Census Class: RG12; Piece: 4150; Folio: 116; Page: 10; GSU roll: 6099260

jackson letter

“Breeders of the Deaf” – Percival Macleod Yearsley’s ‘self advertisement’

H Dominic W Stiles22 March 2016

In the 1920s eugenics was a very hot subject, an area of much concern to Percival Macleod Yearsley (1867-1951).  Percival was a cousin (twice removed) of James Yearsley the great aural surgeon.  Yearsley was formerly consulting aural surgeon to St. James’ Hospital, Balham, and to the London County Council.  He died at Gerrard’s Cross on May 4, 1951 at the age of 83.  He was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School and the Westminster and London Hospitals.  In 1893 he was appointed to the staff of the old Royal Ear Hospital in Soho, becoming senior surgeon, and

he was the first aural surgeon to the London County Council, for whom he carried out important investigations among school-children.  He also interested himself in the welfare of deaf-mutes.  A man of many interests, Macleod Yearsley wrote some delightful fairy tales, studied the story of the Bible, discussed the sanity of Hamlet and doctors in Elizabethan drama, took a scientific interest in the Zoological Society, translated Forel’s Sensations des insectes, and was an archaeologist of repute. In his own specialty he wrote a Textbook on Diseases of the Ear (1908) and another on Nursing in Diseases of the Throat, Nose and Ear.  Later he became greatly interested in the Zund-Burguet electrophonoid treatment of deafness, on which he wrote a monograph in 1933.  Energetic, open-minded, and many-faceted, he was looked upon as rather a stormy petrel by his contemporaries; but he mellowed with time, to be regarded with respect and admiration by otologists of today. (Obituary in the Lancet, 1951)

Percival McLeod Yearsley's signature in a copy of his cousin's The Artificial Tympanum

Percival MacLeod Yearsley’s signature in a copy of his cousin’s book The Artificial Tympanum

The letter, a follow up to a much longer letter signed by a number of notable people, appears in a scrap page from Ernest Ayliffe’s collection of various odd documents and letters, with associated cuttings, and the page is dated ‘Feb 22/29’.   The year was 1929, the newspaper the Daily Mail.

Breeders of the Deaf

Sir,- For the past twenty-one years I have been advocating the sterilisation of those who are responsible for the perpetuation of a considerable section of our “deaf-mutes.” But hitherto such advocacy has fallen upon deaf ears.

There are numerous examples in our deaf schools all over the country of born deaf children whose disability is due to what is known as “true hereditary deafness,” a condition which, in its propagation, follows the Mendelian theory.
Dr. Kerr Love, of Glasgow, and I have published for years past a considerable amount of work upon this question, and have shown that, while there are hearing carriers of deafness whom it be difficult to sterilise, owing to the practical impossibility of recognising them until they produce deaf children, those who are born hereditarily deaf breed true, and can be safely expected to do so.

These are the cases which require sterilisation, and I have a considerable number of family trees showing this sure method of perpetuation of deafness.

I need not expatiate upon the advantage to the race and to the State if this form of deafness could be eliminated, but I would point out that the education of a normal hearing child costs approximately £5 18s., while that of a deaf child is £69 18s. 10d.

This gives an additional reason for sterilisation of the unfit, and it is satisfactory to see that the letter published contains the names of bishops as well as of men of science.
MACLEOD YEARSLEY, F.R.C.S., F.R.A.I.
81 Wimpole street, W.1.

As you see, Ayliffe added some comments –

Comments
Wish to call attention to this very damaging letter to the cause of the Deaf.

Whatever the merits of the system it is a brutal one.
May be justification for it in a few cases- but very few.
Why Deaf & Dumb! Why not blind. You get some cases to my certain knowledge – generations of them (in few cases likewise)
Why not M.Ds?
Why not the vicious?
Why not criminals?
[pencil] Difficulty of appeal [pencil]
Our appeal for the Deaf is very seriously jeopardised by such a letter.
Can anything be done by the committee to counteract it?
[pencil] Implications by quotation from Kerr Love
Ought we to repudiate the whole thing or let Yearsley get away with his self advertisement? [pencil]

B.D.D.A. – [pencil] Indignation – but –

N.I.D.

Ayliffe’s comment there seems to expose Yearsley.  His understanding of the new science of genetics does not seem to be great.  Despite his other certain talents, in this letter he comes across as a shameless self-promotor, a mere shadow of his relative.Breeders of the deaf 001

Percival Macleod Yearsley Lancet. 1951 May 19;1(6664):1130.

Updated 23/12/2016 with photograph of Yearsley from Teacher of the Deaf