Odd Scientific Studies: The Darwins

Whenever the topic of evolution is brought up in conversation, it’s impossible to ignore the contributions of Charles Darwin. Interestingly, great achievements must run in the family tree of the Darwins because his cousin , Sir Francis Galton, is known for inventing a process we still use today.

Charles Darwin

The author of  ‘On the Origin of Species’ and researcher of insect pollination using wild orchids, Darwin was a versatile scientist who spent his time investigating the ins and outs of evolution. Sometimes, his methods and experiments went outside the norm. Let’s take his fascination with earthworms. Darwin actually calculated the precise number of earthworms contained in his garden , an average of 53,767 per acre to be exact. He then placed thousands of earthworms on his billiard table and conducted a range of experiments.

Darwin blew tobacco smoke on the worms to see what would happen. He watched the earthworms as his son played the bassoon at them. He positioned the worms close to the keys of a piano and after they were played as loud as possible, he assessed that worms lacked a sense of hearing. Darwin then went on to subject his plants to the same kinds of experiments. Although this time, he concluded that his plants were simply deaf.

Darwin expressed an early interest in nature, which eventually caused him to abandon his medical studies at the University of Edinburgh. He felt that exploring marine invertebrates was much more interesting. At the University of Cambridge, he indulged in his enthusiasm for natural science. Darwin strengthened his position in geology when he embarked on a voyage for five years on the HMS Beagle. His reputation and popularity as an author aided his quest to become established in geology. His observations and theories also supported Charles Lyell’s uniformitarian ideas and when he published his journal highlighting his adventures during the voyage, the public quickly embraced Darwin.

Sir Francis Galton

Galton is behind fingerprinting and is known as a pioneering force behind the science of eugenics. He was also the first to describe high and low pressure weather patterns. Galton also had his eye on the ladies and even created an invention centered on admiring beauty. He constructed a pocket counting device that could clock the number of beautiful women that passed in the street.

He then used the numbers to create a ‘beauty map’ of Great Britain. Galton spent a great deal of time researching the women in his region and came to the conclusion that the most unattractive women lived in Aberdeen. But this isn’t the only observation he made concerning women. In 1850, he became the first European to explore Damaraland in Southwest Africa. When he encountered the Hottentot people, he became concerned with measuring the backsides of the women.

Despite some of his strange ways, Galton was said to possess an IQ of 200 , the highest on record.