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Extreme Measures: The Dark Visions and Bright Ideas of Francis Galton Hardcover – September 23, 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sir Francis Galton (1822–1911), a cousin of Charles Darwin, once famously made a beauty map of Britain, counting the number of attractive women he saw in each city (London was number one). This eccentric Victorian snob is one of the greatest forgotten scientists: he invented modern statistics, coined the phrase "nature versus nurture" and popularized fingerprinting as a means of tracking criminals. He did all this in the name of his brainchild, eugenics. Galton was "preoccupied with distinctions of race, class and social status" and saw natural selection as a "prescription for human progress" and a "path to biological excellence." Author and biologist Brookes (Fly: The Unsung Hero of Twentieth-Century Science) writes with understanding but unsympathetic wit of Galton's racist ideas, laying bare his shocking cruelty toward his fellow man, which he tried to hide behind Victorian respectability. Though the book is a little slow in early chapters about Galton's youth, the history of his scientific career is worth persevering, for Brookes explores the mind of this polymath, illuminating how one man could both innovate modern genetics' most useful tools and completely misinterpret the results. Galton deserves his moment in the sun, and Brookes, with his respect for Galton's achievements and condemnation for his conclusions, is the right biographer to explain this controversial man. B&w photos.
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About the Author

Martin Brookes is the author of Fly: The Unsung Hero of Twentieth-Century Science. In a previous life he was an evolutionary biologist in the Galton Laboratory at University College London.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First American Edition edition (October 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582344817
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582344812
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,684,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Patrick L. Boyle on April 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bough this book because it was cheap. Maybe I should have expected less.

Galton is an interesting person and an important figure in world history. But this slim biography has entirely too much of the author interjecting himself into the narrative to denounce Galton for his unfashionable ideas. Mr. Brookes seems to live in horror of the thought that anyone might think that he thinks the same way as Galton. Over and over he stops the exposition to make it clear that he thinks Galton is some kind of monster.

Who needs all this? No one who would read this book would fail to know that Galton was the founder of Eugenics. Nor would they know that Eugenics was once very popular and now is out of favor. Indeed one of the main reasons why anyone would want to read this book is to try to understand why eugenics was once so powerful an idea. No one cares what Mr. Brookes thinks.

I've never read a biography of Hitler. Is it like this? Do you have to endure the narrator constantly telling you what a bad man Hitler was and how he the author doesn't agree with Hitler or his ideas?

I probably will have to read Galton's own autobiography. But it's pretty expensive.
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Format: Hardcover
An enjoyable introduction to Sir Francis Galton, the brilliant Victorian who gave us weather maps, fingerprints, and (on a less positive note) eugenics. Galton loved to measure things; wherever he was, whatever he was doing, it seems that he found something in his surroundings to measure. His curiosity and enthusiasm for life and discovery make him a sympathetic character even considering his racism, sexism, and classism; he was, after all, a product of his upper-middle-class Victorian environment.

This version of his life story is a good read; choose it instead of Gillham's version unless you want to get into the actual science of what he was doing. One major fault of the Brookes book: it doesn't have an index. Gillham's book has an extensive one.

What would make a Galton biography one step better: more analysis of why Galton became who he was and perhaps a deeper look into his own writings, along with the impact that Galton has on science and psychology today.

For more info on Galton, go to the website [...]
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I always enjoy a book when the author gives descriptive details and assumed anecdotal events that allows the reader to visually enriched their reading experience.
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Format: Hardcover
Fantastic read. Very well written and throughly researched.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is quite quirky, about an individual largely forgotten today but whose innovations in statistics, data gathering techniques, and survival tips are still used today. The book paints a convincing picture of a man who sought a reputation as a man of science but who was (as all human beings are) filled with rather dark sides that showed in his snobbery and in his mania for collecting data. The book appears a bit too sympathetic to evolution and to the moral difficulties that follow from rejecting God's standards, seeking to condemn Galton for his Nazi-esque eugenic fantasies while not understanding the Darwinian root of such problems. Nonetheless, the book is a fine one about a compelling and unusual figure who will remain obscure to most of those who take advantage of his quirky innovations.
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