For nearly 150 years, the concept of intelligence and its study have offered scientific ways of classifying people in terms of their “ability”. The drive to identify and quantify exceptional mental capacity may have a chequered history, but it is still being pursued by some researchers today.
Francis Galton, who was Charles Darwin’s cousin, is considered the father of eugenics and was one of the first to formally study intelligence. His 1869 work Hereditary Genius argued that superior mental capabilities were passed down via natural selection – confined to Europe’s most eminent men, a “lineage of genius”. Barring a few exceptions, women, ethnic minorities and lower socioeconomic communities were labelled as inferior in intelligence.
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