(a note on content)
Some of the stories in the exhibition feature racist, ableist, and/or homophobic medical terms which are offensive. As curators and writers of this exhibition, we have done our best to use these terms responsibly, with a view to appropriately contextualising and exploring these ideas and their history, and encouraging continuing critical thought in the interests of positive social change in the future.
While trying to address these issues squarely, we are also aware that we may ourselves use racist and ableist language naively or in error. As such, we welcome corrections and suggestions for improving the language used here, and encourage you to get in touch with us to help us learn and improve the language of the exhibition if you feel we have done so. The exhibition also features images of pathology specimens which include human organs.
Pearson Dog Skeletons, Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, late 19th/early 20th century.
The Grant Museum of Zoology at UCL holds a number of dog skeletons, skins and a mounted dog specimen which relate to Karl Pearson’s dog breeding programme at UCL. Established in 1908 (Few et al. 2021, p.16), following his ascension into the role of Director at the Eugenic Records Office in 1906 (Cain, 2020), Pearson’s dog breeding experiments played a key role in the development of the science of heredity and eugenics at UCL. Pearson experimented on dogs, such as “Bruno” (Few et al. 2021, p.7) and a Pomeranian called “Cyclops”, the name originating from him losing an eye to an infection (Few et al. 2021, p.12). Pearson’s experiments were largely focused on theories of heredity following Galton’s “pedigree analysis” (UCL, 2020,p.14). Bruno was mounted by a company called Gerrard and Sons and possibly had “red and black points” on his coat (Few et al. 2021, p.7). Cyclops’ internal organs, remaining eye, and skin were preserved by Pearson for further examination; there is also a record of Cyclops having knock-knees on his forelegs (Few et al. 2021, p.12).
Considering Pearson’s role in eugenics, the preservation of Cyclops’ organs, and the description of his knock-knees, one can infer that Pearson saw a link between Cyclops’ physical attributes as relevant to research into heredity.
Bruno’s skeleton is a remaining specimen from Pearson’s Dog Breeding Programme which started in 1908. Bruno’s breed is unspecified; however, it is possible that due to the smaller dogs Pearson used for his research, Bruno was likely of a small breed. Bruno is believed to have had points of red and black on his coat and was a male. He was mounted by Gerrard and Sons and can be found in the Grant Museum (Few et al. 2021, p.7&16).
Cyclops was part of Pearson’s Dog Breeding Programme. He was a Pomeranian and known to have had a knock-knees, possibly a genetically inherited trait. He also suffered from an infected eye which was removed. Following his death, Cyclops’ organs and skin were preserved by Pearson, possibly for further research into heredity. Cyclops can be found at the Grant Museum (Few et al. 2021, pp. 2&16).
The eugenics and heredity research would not have been possible without an accessible location. According to Magnello (1999), Pearson was involved in the Biometrics and Eugenics Laboratories as early as 1906, following the death of Weldon. Furthermore, in a letter to Galton, Pearson discusses his involvement in biometrics:
“I have great hesitation in taking any initiative at all in the Eugenic Records Office work, because I do not want you to think that I was carrying all things into a biometrics vortex!” (Pearson, 1906, cited in Magnello, 1999, p.124).
Following Galton’s death in 1911, Pearson became the first Professor of Eugenics. Galton expressed in his will that this was done on the condition that Pearson continue the Biometrics Laboratory, which had been founded in 1904. The first floor plan depicts essential rooms for Pearson’s involvement in the study of eugenics, such as a Biometrical Library and Eugenics Laboratory (UCL, 2020, p.23; Magnello, 1999, p.13; Few et al. 2021, p.16).
The study of eugenics at UCL did not cease after Pearson’s death in 1936 (Few et al. 2021, p.16). In 1945, Penrose was elected as the Galton Professor of Eugenics, and it was not until 1963 that the title was amended to Galton Professor of Human Genetics (UCL, 2020, p.25) – twenty-seven years after Pearson’s death.
Of course, Pearson’s research into heredity did not limit itself to dogs, but branched into the topic of human genetics. The Treasury of Human Inheritance was edited by Pearson, during his time as Galton Professor of Eugenics (Pearson et al. 1912). The text investigates topics such as the genetic inheritance of diabetes, split foot, and congenital cataract (Pearson et al. 1912).
A “Bastard’s Case” shows the genetic inheritance of congenital cataracts within various families. The diagram is from Pearson’s publication of The Treasury of Human Inheritance, published in 1912. The Treasury of Human Inheritance is a compilation of research into human heredity (Harman, 1912; Pearson, 1912; Few et al. 2021, p.16).
Pearson’s research on heredity was not simply concerned with illness, but aimed to provide a scientific justification for social programmes of directed human breeding. As he stated in The Academic Aspect of the Science of National Eugenics:
“We understand by a racial character, one which is the product of many centuries of selection, one which passes from generation to generation, and one which is not fundamentally modified if a child be born to the race in India, Canada or Australia. We are looking, therefore, at the range of qualities fixed by selection and transmitted by heredity…” (Pearson, 1911, p.5).
In a similar way to Cyclops’ knock-knees being a genetically inherited trait, here Pearson shows his belief that a person’s character was defined by their race and genetics.
These objects document Pearson’s active involvement into the study of eugenics during his time at UCL. Eugenics is, unfortunately, a significant aspect of UCL’s history and Pearson’s dog labs and research into heredity have had a lasting impact. Eugenics has been used to justify Nazi policies and Apartheid (Sutton, 2007, p.22); many aspects of both regimes are still echoed in today’s societies but originate from eugenics studies which took place within the walls of UCL.
By Rebeca Bird Lima
Cain, Joe. 2020. Francis Galton’s Eugenics Record Office on Gower Street (ERO-Galton). Professor Joe Cain UCL Professor of History and Philosophy of Biology. Available at: Francis Galton's Eugenics Record Office on Gower Street (ERO-Galton) - Professor Joe Cain (profjoecain.net).
Few, Elisabeth., Stitchman, Nicky., Andrew, Ruth., and Roy, Sophia. 2021. Pearson Dog Skeletons and Specimens. Internal UCL report [Unpublished].
Galton, Francis. 1904. Eugenics: its definition, scope and aims. The American Journal of Sociology X (1). Available at: https://galton.org/essays/1900-1911/galton-1904-am-journ-soc-eugenics-scope-aims.htm.
Magnello, Eileen M. 1999. The Non-Correlation of Biometrics and Eugenics: Rival Forms of Laboratory Work in Karl Pearson’s Career at University College London, Part 2. History of Science 37(2): 123-150.
Pearson, Karl. Letter to Francis Galton. 25 October 1906, in Magnello, Eileen M. 1999. The Non-Correlation of Biometrics and Eugenics: Rival Forms of Laboratory Work in Karl Pearson's Career at University College London, Part 2. History of Science 37 (2): 123.
Pearson, Karl. 1911. The Academic Aspect of the Science of National Eugenics. London: Dulau and Co., Ltd.
Pearson, Karl. 1912. Treasury of Human Inheritance. London: Dulau. Available at: https://wellcomecollection.org/works/pe2s8c7d/items?canvas=9
Pearson, Karl., Nettleship, Edward., and Usher, Charles H. 1911. A Monograph on Albinism in Man (Vol. 2). London: Dulau.
UCL. 2020. Inquiry into the History of Eugenics at UCL – Final Report. Available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/provost/reports/report-and-recommendations.
Sutton, Gill. 2007. The Layering of History: A Brief Look at Eugenics, the Holocaust and Scientific Racism in South Africa. Yesterday & Today 1:22-30.
LDUAC-2008/32ACCESSION NUMBER: A unique identifier assigned to, and achieving initial control of, each acquisition. Assignment of accession numbers typically occurs at the point of accessioning or cataloging.
Greater Zimbabwe Pot, Institute of Archaeology Collections, late 20th century.
This ceramic bowl was purchased for Margaret Drower in a village near Great Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe....
LDUGC-145ACCESSION NUMBER: A unique identifier assigned to, and achieving initial control of, each acquisition. Assignment of accession numbers typically occurs at the point of accessioning or cataloging.
First Anthropometric Laboratory Photograph, UCL Science Collections (Galton Collection), 1884.
This photograph depicts the first Anthropometric Laboratory, established by Francis Galton, at the 1884 International Health Exhibition....
LDUGC-365ACCESSION NUMBER: A unique identifier assigned to, and achieving initial control of, each acquisition. Assignment of accession numbers typically occurs at the point of accessioning or cataloging.
Eye colour gauge, UCL Science Collections (Galton Collection), 1903-1907.
In early 20th century Switzerland, anthropologist Rudolf Martin (1864-1925) produced the Augenfarbentafel (eye colour chart or gauge)....