Re the blog article “‘Father of eugenics’ should not be erased from academic history”(www.timeshighereducation.com, 19 February) on the controversy over the legacy of Sir Francis Galton at University College London. Niall McCrae and Roger Watson are either unable to follow or deliberately misread arguments with which they disagree.
They say: “The lecture theatre named after Galton at UCL, his laboratory and bust, honour his seminal achievements. It would be intellectual and cultural vandalism to remove his name, but sadly this is part of a broader trend in universities. Many scholars will be well aware of the censorial and airbrushing tendencies of radical students, and administrators often appear spineless in defending their greatest alumni. We expect students to be idealists and to challenge the status quo, but if their zeal for an unblemished gallery is appeased, universities will be left with only the bland and the boring.”
Those of us calling for change said: “A frequent response is to rename. Yet putting right this wrong is not as simple as renaming a lecture theatre, an academic building or a prestigious professorship. In the 1960s, the Francis Galton Laboratory for the Study of National Eugenics (founded in 1907) became the Galton Laboratory of the Department of Human Genetics and Biometry, and the Galton Professor of Eugenics (founded in 1911, with [Karl] Pearson the first to hold the chair) became the Galton Professor of Human Genetics. That did not stop University College London, in 1980, from renaming the Bartlett Building the Pearson Building. Ignorance did not lead to justice. Justice demands a public discussion about why we have (and about why, for so long, we have kept) those names.”