Francis Galton, Eugenics, and Why We Need New Science Stories

Lunchtime Lectures
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
12:00 p.m. EST (UTC -5)


Profile view of Sir Francis Galton

Francis Galton, 1890s.

Eveleen Myers (née Tennant), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Francis Galton is the most influential Victorian scientist most people have never heard of. If you have heard of him, you may know that in 1883 Galton coined the word eugenics to describe his vision for a society governed by scientific knowledge. In this talk, Subhadra Das, former curator of the Galton Collection at University College London (UCL), will describe the colonial and racist ideas that framed Galton’s work, and explain why, for her, the absence of Galton’s story is a story in itself.

This Lunchtime Lecture is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the Institute’s Innate: How Science Invented the Myth of Race project.

About the Speaker

Subhadra Das is a writer, historian, broadcaster, comedian, and museum curator. Her main area of research is the history of science and medicine in the 19th and 20th centuries, specifically the history of eugenics and scientific racism. She uses museum objects to tell decolonial stories in engaging and affirming ways.


Subhadra Das

Courtesy of Subhadra Das

Subhadra is a former researcher in critical eugenics at the Sarah Parker Remond Centre. She has curated and cocurated exhibits and experiences around race and science, including Bricks + Mortals, an exhibition and podcast walking tour highlighting UCL’s pivotal role in the history of eugenics, and Display of Power at UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology, as an inaugural Art Fund UK Headley Fellow. Subhadra was a member of the Inquiry into the History and Legacy of Eugenics at UCL (2019–2020), and a coauthor of the recommendations from the MORE sub-group. She also wrote and presented Living with Eugenics, part of the UCL Minds series of podcasts.

About the Series

Our virtual Lunchtime Lecture Series takes a rigorous and entertaining approach to exploring topics for scholars and anyone interested in stories about the history of science, technology, and medicine. The talks help expand perceptions of the nature of science and how it’s done.