in my post about the woodley, et al., iq paper the other day, i mentioned that one of the two studies on victorian iqs included in their research had been conducted on university of chicago students. i got to thinking afterwards that, apart from the fact that most of those students had probably been white (probably wasps, in fact), this could hardly have been a representative sample of victorian americans since the vast majority of people didn’t attend college in those days — late nineteenth century college students would’ve mostly been, you know, actual smart people.

so, then i was planning on (reluctantly) splashing out $11.95 on this article to find out the details on what sorts of people were included in galton’s study of victorian english iqs, the second set of victorian iq results used by woodley, et al. (reluctantly because, h*ck! — $11.95 is three or four tall decaf mochas!).

but scott alexander over @slate star codex is way ahead of me! scott writes:

“Galton’s Data A Century Later, published in 1985, tells us a little about how he gained his ground-breaking reaction time statistics. He set up a laboratory in the Science Galleries of the South Kensington Museum. There he charged visitors to the museum three pence ($25 in modern currency after adjusting for inflation) to be measured by his instruments, a process he advertised as ‘for the use of those who desire to be accurately measured in many ways, either to obtain timely warning of remediable faults in development, or to learn their powers.'”

ehhhh. charged a fee? uh-oh.

scott acknowledges that his $25 estimate mightn’t have been the most accurate, so i decided to use the calculator over at measuring worth to see how much three pence from 1889 would be worth today (i used their average earnings index), and i got £5.25 or $7.94 (for 2010). that’s not quite $25, but still that’s two or three tall mochas! i’m not sure that very many lower class victorians would’ve been willing or able to part with that amount of money just to take galton’s funny little test.

additionally, there may also have been an admission fee for the south kensington museum (now the victoria and albert museum) that we might have to add to that $7.94, but i’m not sure because i couldn’t find out anything about museum fees in victorian era london. (i know, for instance, that museums in places like new york generally had fees in the late 1800s, but also often had one free day a week to enable the lower classes to visit and learn. bunch o’ idealists, the victorians! (~_^) )

so again, i think we’ve got an apples and oranges problem here.

go read the whole of scott’s post, btw, because it’s excellent!

previously: we’re dumber than the victorians

(note: comments do not require an email. the south kensington museum.)

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