Standard Article

Intelligence, Heredity, and Genes: A Historical Perspective

  1. CF Goodey

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0006182



How to Cite

Goodey, C. 2006. Intelligence, Heredity, and Genes: A Historical Perspective. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. The Open University, London, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

This is not the most recent version of the article. View current version (16 FEB 2015)


The idea of an intelligence specific to humans has not always existed but grew from pre-modern ideas about their cultural and religious status. Galton's attachment of the term ‘intelligence’ to an existing statistical abstraction (the Gaussian curve) enabled this metaphysical concept to be correlated with the physical phenomenon of genetic material, since both were now apparently measureable. Like intelligence, the ‘nature/nature’ and ‘normal/abnormal’ frameworks dominating cognitive genetics are not trans-historical but outcomes of the eugenic mind-set, dependent on it for their validity.


  • intelligence;
  • learning disability;
  • heredity;
  • eugenics;
  • history