Every year in my classes I’ll spend a little time talking about Francis Galton and Karl Pearson. It’s unavoidable. They were early pioneers in genetics and were extremely influential in their time, so I have been and will continue to bring up their contributions and their flaws. Galton was a wealthy guy who endowed a Chair in Eugenics at University College London, and Pearson was the first person appointed to it; just the strong association with eugenics ought to be enough to taint the history of the two men. I like to let my students know about how Galton, for a time, kept a device he called his ‘pricker’ in his pocket so he could surreptitiously score the attractiveness of women he met, which he later published as a list of the quality of women across the UK — the women of London were the most beautiful, while those in Scotland…weren’t. And you thought MRAs were a recent phenomenon!
We don’t need to bestow special honors on these harbingers of a century of racism and oppression, so UCL has decided to dename any buildings with their names on them.
In the meantime, the names have been changed to Lecture Theatre 115 (formerly the Galton Lecture Theatre), Lecture Theatre G22 (formerly the Pearson Lecture Theatre) and the North-West Wing (formerly the Pearson Building).
Not exactly poetic names, but better than trumpeting the names of racists.
Next up: all those corporations and rich alumni who buy the names of university buildings might want to consider the transitory nature of the honor, because when we start an accounting of the crimes of capitalism all those signs might come tumbling down. It’s always annoyed me that some rich dweeb with no real association with what goes on inside them gets to come along and have their name enshrined on the doors to a building.
Ooops, speaking of which, the Natural History Museum has decided that their new director will be the rich parasite who runs Amazon UK.
The new director has extensive experience of running online food businesses, and has also previously served on boards and acted as a trustee for high-profile museums. Gurr was the chair of the Science Museum’s board from 2010 to 2014, and was a trustee of the National Gallery.
He also acted as a non-executive director at the Department for Work and Pensions, which attracted criticism from the Labour MP and tax campaigner Margaret Hodge, who described his appointment as “disgusting” because Amazon was involved in a row over its taxes.
Oooh, “extensive experience of running online food businesses”. That doesn’t even make him qualified to run the museum cafeteria, but now he’s in charge of the whole show? This is a disaster in the making — rich executives are only good at figuring out how to loot and pillage, which, come to think of it, may be his best qualification to run a British museum.