E. Belfort Bax

The Breeding of Genius

(14 November 1903)

The Breeding of Genius, Justice, 14 November 1903, p.6 (letter).
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


Just a word with reference to the letter signed “A Common Man” in your issue of October 3. The writer, while agreeing with me as to the defective state of our information respecting the conditions presupposed in the breeding of genius, &c., observes: “Almost the only point which seems certain is that men of high intelligence derive most of their ability through the mother.” Now, I submit that there is no single point in the whole controversy that is less “certain” than this one. It may be, indeed, as modern popular opinion has it, that the mother has the larger share in the intellectual calibre of the offspring, or it may be, as the ancients believed, that the intellectual qualities are inherited almost entirely from the father. But we certainly have no conclusive evidence to prove either alternative. Doubtless a number of instances could be adduced of men of genius having had clever mothers and probably an equal number with clever fathers, whilst in other cases both parents may have shown signs of ability, and in yet other cases both may have been apparently mediocre or even inferior.

In the present state of our knowledge the most probable view would seem to be that, at least over a large number of cases, the respective contributions of the male and female parent would be found to balance one another; and this view as far as it regards transmission of physical characteristics, is supported by the analogy of the results of agricultural stock breeding.

The mother theory owes its popularity, doubtless, largely to emotional considerations and to the desire so prevalent in the present clay to exalt woman at the expense of man.


E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 11.6.2004