The Grave of Francis Galton
By Debbie J Challis, on 7 July 2011
Occasionally I leave the museum bunker to give talks about the museum, exhibitions and my research. A few weeks ago I went out to the lovely village of Claverdon in Warwickshire to give a talk on Francis Galton.
2011 is the centenary of the death of the scientist Sir Francis Galton. Last year the churchwarden Jonathan Evans got in touch with UCL Museums and Collections as they had received funding from the Galton Institute to clean up and conserve Galton’s grave in Claverdon church’s graveyard.
Jonathan was concerned that not many people in Claverdon knew who Galton was or how important and wanted some information available on him, that also addressed the difficult issue of eugenics. Jonathan himself researched and wrote a booklet on Galton and there is a small display up in the church, to which UCL contributed a poster. It is quite strange that Galton was buried in Claverdon at all as he spent little time there from the 1850s until his death in 1911, but he lies in the family vault
While researching the Typecast exhibition at the Petrie Museum I have become knowledgeable about Galton, though not an expert, and it was with some trepidation that I went to give a talk on him at the church as part of a big activity day. alongside his parents and brother.
I was even more nervous to then be speaking in front of a professor of genetics and one of Galton’s living relatives, Christopher, but fortunately everyone was very nice and hopefully learned more about Galton by the end of the day.
Excitingly, for me anyway, Galton’s great great great (I think) nephew had brought his family book which recorded the achievements of the Galtons and their family tree. There was a portrait in there that I had not seen before and a comment by Galton’s great niece on the moral problems that eugenics may bring. Christopher pointed out how prescient that comment about ‘Uncle Frank’s’ work was.
Debbie Challis, Petrie Museum