Average Contribution of Each Several Ancestor

Francis GALTON   |   William BATESON

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GALTON'S LAW OF ANCESTRAL HEREDITY

GALTON, Francis. The Average Contribution of Each Several Ancestor to the Total Heritage of the Offspring. IN: Proceedings of the Royal Society. Vol. 61, No. 376, pp. 401-13. (London: Royal Society), July 31, 1897. Octavo, original printed paper wrappers. $850.

First edition of Galton's paper on genetics, attempting to prove his law of ancestral heredity, in the original July, 1897 issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society in original wrappers. Though ultimately overturned by Mendelian genetics, Galton's theory—strongly influenced by his cousin Charles Darwin's belief that inheritance is conditioned by a blending mechanism—sparked contentious debate and stimulated further research into the important fields of heredity and genetics.

According to Galton's "law" of ancestral heredity, in a newborn the average contribution of each parent is 1/4, of each grandparent 1/16, and so on, the total of these amounts summing one or close (DSB). However Galton adds that "a wide though limited range of observation assures us that the occupier of each ancestral place may contribute something of his own personal peculiarity, apart from all others, to the heritage of the offspring" (page 403). While he proposed this law in his 1889 book Natural Inheritance, as he notes in this paper: "I stated it briefly and with hesitation… because it was then unsupported by sufficient evidence" (page 403). In this paper he sets out to provide proof of his law via a study of coloration in Basset hounds. "Galton's views on genetics are historically curious. Influenced by Darwin's belief that inheritance is conditioned by a blending mechanism, Galton propounded his law of ancestral heredity… Yet Galton had himself toyed with the notion of particulate [i.e., Mendelian] inheritance, and in a remarkable correspondence with Darwin in 1875 he sketched the essence of the theory and even discussed something very like what we now know as genotypes and phenotypes under the names 'latent' and 'patent' characteristics. He did not press these views, perhaps because of the strong climate of opinion in favor of blending inheritance at that time" (DSB). Index slip laid in. Owner ink signature on front wrapper dated 1897.

Interior clean. Spine largely perished, stitching intact and sound. A very good copy, scarce in original wrappers.

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