Charles Darwin’s Pedigree As Described By Karl Pearson

GALT364 on display in “We Are Not Alone” exhibition at Wiener Holocaust Library, September 2021. Close-up.
GALT364 on display in “We Are Not Alone” exhibition at Wiener Holocaust Library, September 2021. Title: “Pedigree Showing Further Connections of Charles Robert Darwin With Noteworthy Ancestors.” Photograph by Dr Maria Kiladi, with permission of the Library.

UCL Legacies of Eugenics project

Charles Darwin’s pedigree was one of the premiere objects on display in the recent “We Are Not Alone” exhibition at Wiener Holocaust Library in September 2021, superbly curated by Professor Marius Turda. Darwin’s pedigree was present in the form of a large, framed genealogy – an item loaned from UCL Science Collections. It is their object GALT364. 

Information about that pedigree chart in the “We Are Not Alone” exhibition was sparse. Our curiosity was peaked, and we decided to investigate. We wanted to know more about this object’s origin and purpose. We wanted to learn more about its creators. This note reports on our investigation.

This photograph is GALT364 from UCL Science Collections. It was photographed while on display in the "We Are Not Alone" exhibition at Wiener Holocaust Library in Sepatember 2021. It is the camera-ready image used for Plate II in Karl Pearson. 1930. Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton, volume 3a.
This photograph is GALT364 from UCL Science Collections. It was photographed while on display in the “We Are Not Alone” exhibition at Wiener Holocaust Library in Sepatember 2021. It is the camera-ready image used for Plate II in Karl Pearson. 1930. Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton, volume 3a.

What is Galt364? 

Simply put, Galt364 is a pedigree chart for Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882). It carries the title, “Pedigree Showing Further Connections of Charles Robert Darwin With Noteworthy Ancestors.” On first view, it seems to be what most people call a ‘family tree’. It’s extensive and dense. Many generations are represented. Creating this chart involved a great deal of work. 

In fact, GALT364 is not a family tree or genealogy. Family trees aim for a complete reconstruction of family composition and relatedness. They include all offspring for each generation. They include all known family members. In contrast, GALT364 is a highly selective lineage. It omits many people, focusing attention on a streamlined narrative that works backwards in time from Charles Darwin, through parents and grandparents until it connects Charles Darwin with medieval and early modern notables, especially kings, dukes, and emperors. It’s not a genealogy of family. It’s a pedigree and a stud book. In other words, this chart is a tool for recording breeding lines and for tracing a claim about the inheritance for qualities of interest. In this case, the quality of interest is “notability,” broadly understood to be the qualities held in common with all great men. Males are given priority in this particular genealogy.

The keen observer will notice Darwin isn’t the only endpoint for this visualisation. A second priority for GALT364 seems to be to draw the same ancestral connections for Francis Galton. There is no sleight of hand here. Darwin and Galton were half-cousins; naturally their ancestral lines overlap in significant ways. Including Galton adds significantly to the visual density of GALT364, and it adds to the range of ancestors presented as relevant. 

In the UCL Science Collection database Galt364 is identified as a “Genealogical Chart”. The catalogue description takes most of its information from labels appearing on the object itself: 

“Large hand written genealogical poster, entitled ‘Pedigree showing further connections of Charles Robert Darwin with Noteworthy Ancestors’. Wooden frame Other observations: Links Charles Darwin and Francis Galton with 1. The Carlovingians; 2. Norman Dukes; 3. Scottish Kings; 4. Eastern Emperors; 5. Norman Dukes; 6. Saxon House. Prepared by I McL and K.P. (Karl Pearson) from data supplied by F. Darwin Swift, and issued by the Galton Laboratory” 

This is not a faithful transcription of information on the object itself. The several mistakes introduced into the database are significant. For instance, the chart was issued by the Galton Laboratory for National Eugenics. It is no mere assemblage of facts. It’s an argument by the pedigree’s author about what made Darwin special (answer=qualities he inherited from these ancestors). It’s an argument that the same applied to Francis Galton, too. It also is an argument in favour of a certain theory about how the qualities going into making eminence pass from one generation to the next (answer=by inheritance), and it’s an argument that these two men were eminent primarily because they inherited qualities from their ancestors.  

This chart might seem to be a standalone study in the biography of Darwin or Galton. Notice this is a large display piece. It’s right to ask about the message being conveying while it’s on display. GALT364 offers one piece of “evidence” in a broader argument about the importance of decision-making at the point of marriage: good breeding makes a huge difference to a family’s fortune, so consider marriage to be an act of pedigree-making. A similar argument was made by Albert Wiggam in his article, “Shall I Marry This Man?” This use of data to promote action towards hereditary improvement was known as “positive eugenics”. GALT364 is positive eugenics by example: look what it did for Darwin and Galton. 

Additional information in the UCL Science Collections database notes the chart is 1300 mm x 1000 mm and has a manufacture date of “1911 (post)”.  

When Was GALT364 Created? 

The curator’s entry in UCL’s database of “1911 (post)” is a guess based on no evidence on the object itself, but likely based on the date of Galton’s death. After Galton died in 1911, many objects he owned came into the possession of Karl Pearson, and it is Pearson’s collection of Galtoniana that forms the core of materials in the “GALT” series in UCL Science Collections (formerly the “Galton Collection”). 1911 simply is a default guestimate. 

Contrary to the assertions of one former curator of this object, Galt364 was not created in 1921 for display at the Second International Congress of Eugenics. Neither this chart nor any example of Darwin’s pedigree appears in the catalogue of exhibits for that congress. The 1921 congress was held in New York City, and its American organisers were far more interested in narratives of American Brahmin notability.

Researchers knowledgeable about eugenics at UCL after the Great War will know why this specific chart would not have been submitted for the 1921 congress. It was created in the Galton Laboratory for National Eugenics. The lab’s director, Karl Pearson, loathed the public side of eugenics and feuded with most American eugenicists. He actively deterred staff from attending meetings of this type. (Farrall discusses Pearson’s hatred of public-facing groups both in the UK and the US.) It would be significantly out-of-character for Pearson to instigate creation of materials for the 1921 congress. 

A precise creation date is not clear. A likely date can be identified through narrowing of chronological range. A maximum date for the Darwin pedigree is 1930 because Galt364 was reproduced in Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton volume 3a (1930) as Plate II. (Also available from 

Plate II in Karl Pearson (ed.) 1930. Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton volume 3a. This sheet measures approximately 36cm x 104cm.
Figure 1. Plate II in Karl Pearson (ed.) 1930. Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton volume 3a. This sheet measures approximately 36cm x 104cm.

Pearson published a different pedigree for Darwin in Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton volume 1 (1914), (LLLFGv1) as a loose foldout chart identified as Plate E: “Pedigree showing connection of Charles Darwin with Noteworthy Ancestors.”  Pearson kept extensive notes from the research supporting the 1914 pedigree.

In LLLFGv1 (1914), Plate E is included with four other pedigree plates in the supplemental pocket: 

  • Plate A: Immediate Ancestry and Collaterals of Sir Francis Galton 
  • Plate B: Pedigree showing connection of Barclays with Noteworthy Ancestors 
  • Place C: Pedigree illustrating Relationships of Fraemes, Barclays and Galtons 
  • Plate D: Pedigree of Abrahams, Farmers and Galtons 
  • Plate E: Pedigree showing connection of Charles Darwin with Noteworthy Ancestors 

The 1914 pedigree certainly is not Galt364. Instead, Galt364 represents a revision to Pearson’s 1914 work. Possibly it records a second phase of research into Darwin’s pedigree by Pearson. This would explain the additional term “further” in the pedigree’s title. Galt364 is significantly less dense, likely the result of a different draftsperson’s graphic style and a drastic reduction of information.

Plate E in Karl Pearson (ed.). 1914. Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton volume 1.
Figure 2. Plate E in Karl Pearson (ed.). 1914. Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton volume 1.

As a bonus, we can resolve one confusion in UCL Science Collections. Their item “Galt370” is camera-ready original artwork for the insert in the lower right corner of Plate E in LLLFGv1 (1914). In the collections records, GALT370 is described as an unidentified document. It should be titled, “Immediate Ancestors of Charles Robert Darwin as far as known” and it should be associated with LLLFGv1 (1914), Plate E.

insert in Plate E of Karl Pearson. 1914. Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton
Figure 3. UCL Science Collection GALT370 from UCL Science Collection, listed there as an unidentified document. In fact, this is the insert in lower right corner of Plate E in Karl Pearson. 1914. Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton. Volume 1.

In March 1923, Pearson gave a commemorative speech about Darwin to “teachers of the London County Council”. He published this speech later in the same year as an item in the Galton Laboratory’s in-house serial, Questions of the Day and of the Fray. Galt364 is not mentioned in this publication, despite this venue being ideal for its communication (and ideal for its advertisement). In front matter for the Questions edition, Pearson mentions key facts about Darwin’s ancestry (page iii) (Figure 4), and those facts are included on Galt364. However, those facts were drawn from the genealogical research Pearson published in 1914, a fact supported by Pearson’s own reference to his “Life of Galton” volume 1 when presenting the information. If Pearson had Galt364 in hand it likely either would have been included with this issue, or it would have been referenced in the volume when he sent it to the printer in Summer 1923.

Close-up of page iii from Karl Pearson. 1923. Charles Darwin, 1809-1882. An Appreciation. With Frontispiece Portrait and Plate of Noah’s Ark
Figure 4. Close-up of page iii from Karl Pearson. 1923. Charles Darwin, 1809-1882. An Appreciation. With Frontispiece Portrait and Plate of Noah’s Ark. Being a Lecture Delivered to the Teachers of the London County Council, March 21, 1923 (London: Cambridge University Press). Questions of the Day and of the Fray number 12. Pearson’s point of this contrast is to highlight the value of inherited ability and the lack of importance from elite schooling.

Curiously, the 1923 preface has Pearson noting Darwin’s schooling alongside selected quotes from Darwin about the poor value of his formal education (Figure 4). This aided Pearson’s argument that Darwin was “naturally” eminent rather than nurtured into that position.

Correspondence in the Pearson Papers suggests work on Galt364 was underway in 1923, as Pearson received several replies from Francis Darwin Swift in that year related to genealogical research. This correspondence does not provide evidence for its completion. 

The following is a plausible scenario. While preparing volume 3 for the Life, Letters, and Labours project, Pearson returned to questions of Galton’s and Darwin’s pedigrees, reviving research undertaken for the Darwin pedigree in LLLFGv1(1914) to include new information, such as from Francis Darwin Swift. Possibly also this rekindling of research specifically on the Darwin-Galton pedigree was rejuvenated in 1923 while Pearson was preparing for his commemorative speech on Darwin. In that work about Darwin’s deep ancestry, Pearson drew on information from his research a decade earlier, new research he was asking staff in the Eugenics Laboratory to undertake, and existing work from Francis Darwin Swift. Draft materials developed during this research are located in UCL Special Collections, Pearson Papers series 8, including drafts of sections of this published pedigree and detailed genealogical research. Swift was supportive of Pearson’s work in correspondence during 1923 and offered him some of his own research materials, which focused on the genealogy of Erasmus Darwin, the common ancestor for Charles Darwin, Francis Galton, and Francis Darwin Swift.

At some point in this process, Pearson printed a poster approximately Crown size (412x533mm), “Some Ancestors of Charles Darwin and Francis Galton” to reinforce some of the core points he wanted to make about the deep pedigree for both Darwin and Galton. (Copies of this sheet are in Pearson 8/13/1of2.) Included amongst the ancestors were Charlemagne, Henry III, William de Warenne, Eleanor Plantagenet, and Alfred the Great. This appears drawn from the 1914 point but is much simplified. This was not yet intended for circulation as it lacks identification with the Eugenics Laboratory.

Galt364 is hand drawn, and it likely is a camera-ready original. It would be entirely consistent with Pearson’s entrepreneurial tendencies to imagine he considered selling the pedigree as a printed wall chart, just one piece of merchandise among many he created and sold through the Galton Laboratory and the Biometric Laboratory (Cain 2021). The chart’s label identifies it as “Issued by” the Galton Laboratory of National Eugenics, further suggesting an item created for distribution or sale. Pearson did not advertise his pedigree chart in the endpapers of other publications from the laboratories – his typical practice – so it is safe to conclude it never went into production. That this pedigree wall chart did not become a saleable product might be due to sharply rising costs of paper and printing in post-WW1 London, a subject Pearson commented upon repeatedly. Or, perhaps, the target market (probably, teachers) showed little interest. 

Curiously, in the upper right corner of Galt364 a label “Plate II” was added. This numeration does not appear in LLLFGv3a (1930) even though the image is, in fact, the second plate for the volume. This suggests production of the 1930 volume either used an earlier image of the chart or removed this label during production. The first plate in the volume similarly lacks numeration. 

Galt364 now is framed. It’s not clear when it was first framed. It is reasonable to suppose this pedigree was framed to be hung somewhere in the Galton Laboratory’s facility in the building now identified as “North West Wing” in UCL’s quadrangle. Surviving photographs (in series 5 of the Pearson Papers in UCL Special Collections) do not show its presence, but the photographic record of rooms occupied by the Galton Laboratory is slight. 

In preparation for hanging in the “We Are Not Alone” exhibition, GALT364 was conserved and repaired. This was funded externally by Professor Marius Turda and (oddly) not by UCL Culture, the holding repository supposedly responsible for its preservation. 

Who Created Galt364? 

We wanted to understand who created GALT364. The legend identifies several contributors,  

“Prepared by I. McL and K.P. from data largely supplied by F. Darwin Swift.” 

These individuals are: 

“K.P.” was Karl Pearson, Director of the Galton Laboratory for National Eugenics from its inception in 1907 to his retirement in 1933. 

“I. McL” was Ida McLearn. She was employed as a draftswoman by Pearson in the Eugenics Laboratory [check] from 1921 (Farrall 2019 [1969]: 321). The historian Iris Clever (chapter 3 near note 65) discusses some of her work with Pearson and Morant later in the decade (such as McLearn, Morant and Pearson 1928). Egon Pearson (1938: 205) writes about McLearn “for a number of years [she] was to carry on the Laboratory tradition of good drasftsmanship.” The example he cited was the collaborative work Karl Pearson undertook with members of the lab on the femur in primates and humans (252 in Morant and Welsh 1939: 45) and discussed in his 1920 essay, “Side Lights on the Evolution of Man,” (274 in Morant and Welsh 1939: 49).

“F. Darwin Swift” was Francis Darwin Swift (1864-1950). Swift’s own family free included Charles Darwin and Francis Galton. He had interests in genaelogy, especially medieval and early modern connections. Swift is not mentioned in LLLFGv1 (1914) as a contributor of genealogical information about Darwin, though many others are. Pearson’s surviving correspondence with Swift dates to 1923. Pearson kept that correspondence in files associated with Darwin’s pedigree (UCL Special Collections Pearson Papers 8/13-17, especially 8/14/1-9), and not in his general correspondence files. It’s likely Swift entered Pearson’s circle after LLLFGv1 (1914) was published. Swift is listed in Oxford Men and Their Colleges, 1880-1892. The great Darwin scholar, Richard Broke Freeman (1915-1986), described Swift’s genealogical research as “absurd” presumably for its deep pedigree linkages to historical figures (Freeman 1978: 69). 


In summary, GALT364 is a pedigree chart for Charles Darwin (and Francis Galton). It was created sometime between late 1923 and 1930, most likely during or near 1924. The object itself is the camera-ready original of a wall chart intended for distribution as a production of the Galton Laboratory and prepared for replication in LLLFGv3a (1930). It was drawn by Ida McLearn, a draftswoman on Pearson’s staff who joined in 1921 and who continued in service for many years. As a revision to Plate E in LLLFGv1 (1914), GALT364 relies on information provided by Francis Darwin Swift, and it’s graphical clarity was due to Ida McLearn. 

GALT364 served a commemorative function, but it was not merely commemorative. First, it is a pedigree and an argument for heredity, i.e., a document tracing certain qualities thought to have a large hereditary component. “Pedigree” is not synonymous with “genealogical chart” in that the former is highly selective and purpose-driven in its prioritising of information. Second, GALT364 reinforces the affiliation between Charles Darwin and Francis Galton, to the exclusion of all other descendants. Third, GALT364 is an item attributable to Pearson, and it was produced long after Galton’s death. It serves as an object lesson for Pearson’s interpretation of eminence. As the 1920s continued, Pearson’s historical narratives increasingly focused on Galton as a Messianic “Founder”. It’s entirely possible his desire to reproduce this ancestral narrative near 1930 had more to do with his promotion of Galton than his promotion of Darwin. Pearson rarely wrote about Darwin qua Darwin. He wrote increasingly hagiographic and nostalgic pieces about Galton. It’s entirely possible he was repeating his coverage of Darwin to transfer illumination once more onto Galton.


Inexplicably, online resources for UCL Science Collections remain out-of-date and confusing. They’ve been this way for a long time, and this confusion serves to obfuscate access to the materials. Links here to objects in UCL Science Collection databases might be obscured as a result. These images represent what we available from their digital resources at the time we write this article. 


Cain, Joe. 2021. Publications Produced by the Francis Galton Laboratory for National Eugenics. The Library 22: 523-548. [].

Farrall, Lyndsay Andrew. 2019. The Origins and Growth of the English Eugenics Movement, 1865-1925. STS Occasional Papers number 9 (London: UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies). ISBN 978-1-78751-001-2. 

McLearn, Ida, G. M. Morant, and Karl Pearson. 1928. On the Importance of the Type Silhouette for Racial Characterisation in Anthropology. Biometrika 20B (3/4): 389-400. 

Freeman, Richard B. 1978. Darwin: A Companion (Folkestone: Wm Dawson and Sons). 

“LLLFGv1” and “LLLFGv3a” are abbreviations for Pearson, Karl (ed.). 1914-1930. Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 4 parts in three volumes.  


Joe Cain, UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS)

Maria Kiladi, UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS)


please cite as: Joe Cain and Maria Kiladi. 2021. “Charles Darwin’s Pedigree As Described By Karl Pearson,” Originally published February 2022.


First published February 2022.