Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

April 5, 1877] 
NATURE 
493 
It has,T believe, become more generally known than 
formerly, that although the characteristics of height, 
weight, strength, and fleetness are different things, and 
though different species of plants and animals exhibit 
every kind of diversity, yet the differences in height, 
weight, and every other characteristic, are universally 
distributed in fair conformity with a single law. 
The phenomena with which it deals are like those per¬ 
spectives spoken of by Shakespeare which, when viewed 
awry, show nothing but confusion. 
Our ordinary way of looking at individual differences 
is awry ; thus we naturally buttyrongly judge of differences 
in stature by differences in heights, measured from the 
ground, whereas on changing our point of view to that 
whence the law of deviation regards them, by taking the 
average height -of the race, and not the ground, as the 
point of reference, all confusion disappears, and unifor- 
.roity prevails. 
It was to Quetelet that we were first indebted for a 
knowledge of the fact that the amount and frequency of 
deviation from the average among members of the same 
race, in respect to each and every characteristic, tends to 
conform to the mathematical law of deviation. 
The diagram contains extracts from some of the tables, 
American soldiers, 
France 
Belgium, Quetelet 
Heights. 
25,878 observations. 
(Hargenvilliers). 
20 years' observations. 
Metres. 
Observed 
Calcu¬ 
lated. 
[ Observed 
Calcu¬ 
lated. 
Observed 
Calcul^ed 
1*90 
I 
3 
I90 
7 
5 
1 « 
l ' , 
87 
14 
13 
- I 
» 
\ ' 
84 
25 
28 
25 
3 
2 
3 
8t 
45 
52 
7 
- 7 
. 7 
79 
99 
84 
16 
14 
«4 
76 
112 
117 
32 
32 
34 
28 
73 
138 
I42 
55 
55 
48 
53 
70 
148 
150 
88 
87 
102 
107 
68 
137 
137 
114 
ns 
138 
136 
65 
93 
109 
144 
140 
I29 
150 
62 
IOQ 
75 
140 
«45 
162 
150 
6O 
49 
45 
Il6 
132 
106 
136 
57 
14 
24 
105 
IEO 
107 
54 
8 
IX 
- 73 
1 
53 
51 
I 
4 
44 
1 
28 
48 
45 
X 
- 286 
24 
II 
1- «47 
1 
14 
7 
42 
- 
4 
1 
J 
3 
39 
2 
I 
36 
I 
IOOO 
IOOO 
IOOO 
IOOO 
IOOO 
IOOO 
Degrees of Dynanometer. 
Lifting power of Belgian Men, 
Observed. 
Calculated. 
200 
I 
I 
190 
I80 
9 
IO 
170 ' 
l6o 
23 ■ 
23 
150 
I40 
33 
32 
130 
120 
22 
23 
IIO 
IOO 
12 
IO 
90 
I 
I 
ICO 
IOO 
by which he corroborates his assertion. Three of the series 
in them refer to the heights of Americans, French, and Bel¬ 
gians respectively, and the fourth to strength, to that of 
Belgians, In each series there are two parallel columns, 
one entitled “ observed,” and the other “ calculated,” and 
the close conformity between each of the pairs is very 
striking. 
These Tables serve another purpose ; they enable those 
who have not had experience of such statistics to appre¬ 
ciate the beautiful balance of the processes of heredity in 
ensuring the repetition of such finely graduated propor¬ 
tions as those they record. 
The outline of my problem of this evening is, that since 
the characteristics of all plants and animals tend to con¬ 
form to the law of deviation, let us suppose a typical case, 
in which tie conformity shall be exact, and which shall 
admit of discussion as a mathematical problem, and find 
what the laws of heredity must then be to enable succes¬ 
sive generations to maintain statistical identity. 
I shall have to speak so much about the law ot devia¬ 
tion, that it is absolutely'necessary to tax your attention 
for a“ few minutes to explain the principle on which it is 
based, what it is that it professes to show, and what the 
two numbers are which enable long series to be calculated 
like those in the tables just referred to. The simplest way 
of explaining the law is to begin by showing it in action. 
For this purpose I will use an apparatus that I employed 
three years ago in this very theatre, to illustrate other 
points connected with the law of deviation. An extension 
of its performance will prove of great service to us to¬ 
night, but I will begin by working the instrument as I did 
on the previous occasion. The portion of it that then 
existed and to which I desire now to confine your atten¬ 
tion, is shown in the lower part of Fig. 1, wheie I 
wish you to notice the stream issuing from either of 
the divisions just above the dots, its dispersion among 
a a 2
        

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