Whenever you can, count

Jim Holt writes about Extreme Measures: The Dark Visions and Bright Ideas of Francis Galton by Martin Brookes, in the New Yorker:

GaltonIn the eighteen-eighties, residents of cities across Britain might have noticed an aged, bald, bewhiskered gentleman sedulously eying every girl he passed on the street while manipulating something in his pocket. What they were seeing was not lechery in action but science. Concealed in the man’s pocket was a device he called a “pricker,” which consisted of a needle mounted on a thimble and a cross-shaped piece of paper. By pricking holes in different parts of the paper, he could surreptitiously record his rating of a female passerby’s appearance, on a scale ranging from attractive to repellent. After many months of wielding his pricker and tallying the results, he drew a “beauty map” of the British Isles. London proved the epicenter of beauty, Aberdeen of its opposite.

Such research was entirely congenial to Francis Galton, a man who took as his motto “Whenever you can, count.”

More here.