Full text: Problems in eugenics

.250Section III.F. A. Woods. 
in Europe with the same sort of facts in a democratic country like America, 
where the social conditions are different, and where opportunity is sup­ 
posed to be at its maximum. With this idea in view, I have had two 
graduate students in Harvard University collect historical and genealogical 
materials—everything that could be brought together concerning the ancestors 
and descendants of those greatest Americans whose names are in the Hall of 
Fame, an arcade built on the banks of the Hudson in New York. These 
celebrities, forty-seven in number, have been elected to this temple of the 
immortals only some years after their death and after careful deliberation, 
the names of candidates being voted on by a committee of a hundred, 
made up of citizens who are themselves distinguished in various walks of 
life and are supposedly best qualified to pass judgment on such matters. 
This makes an excellent list to begin with; and any bias I myself may have 
is eliminated, since the list is prepared by others. I then made a second 
group of names, about 3,500 in number, by adding together all those in two 
standard works of biography. Now the chances that an ordinary mortal— 
any man taken at random—will be closely related (as close as a grand­ 
parent or grandson) to any person in this second group (the 3,500 group) 
is about one in five hundred to perhaps one in a thousand. In contrast to 
this, fully one-half of those in the Hall of Fame are closely related to 
someone in the second group, and, if all their distinguished relatives are 
added up, they average more than one apiece. In other words, the amount 
of distinguished relationship which the Hall of Fame gives is about a 
thousand times the random expectation. 
In the time allotted, I cannot go into details, but I may say that the 
whole picture presented by these pedigrees of leading American families is 
the same as the European. Intellectual distinction is just as much of a 
family affair in the new country and in a freer atmosphere as it is on this 
side of the Atlantic, where the social lines are supposed to be more strictly 
drawn. I do not wish to be understood as saying that environment has 
not been important to both sets of peoples. Indeed, it has been all 
important. But I do wish to emphasize that here is a case where, making 
the question a problem of differences, it is found that a difference in the 
environment has been incapable of making itself felt. 
History, when studied by methods of measurement and viewed over long 
periods of time, does not make one believe in the plasticity of human nature. 
There are changes from one age to another; but these seem due to the drop­ 
ping out of whole characters through failure to transmit, so' that the per­ 
centage in each generation becomes gradually less. It does not seem due 
to gradual accumulative moulding power of society as a whole. Some of 
the later kings are as bad as the earlier, but there are not so many of the 
bad type. On the average, the worst types have left fewer adult descen­ 
dants, probably because of strong and wide-reaching correlations between 
normal health and all that passes under the term morality. Many dynasties,

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