[Composite Portraits of Criminal Types]

Francis Galton (British, 1822–1911)

Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 17.7 x 10.9 cm (6 15/16 x 4 5/16 in.) Mat: 29.8 x 21.1 cm (11 3/4 x 8 5/16 in.) Frame: 35.6 x 27.9 cm (14 x 11 in.)
Credit Line:
The Galton Archive, University College London, Special Collections.
  • Description

    Notorious for his ideas about improving the genetic composition of the human population—a field of study he called “eugenics”—Galton devised the technique of composite portraiture as a tool for visualizing different human “types.” He first applied the method to portraits of convicts to determine whether specific facial features could be associated with distinct types of criminality. He later went on to create composite photographs of other segments of the population whose members were considered feeble or socially inferior, including the mentally ill, tuberculosis patients, and Jews. Later, he turned to the “healthy and talented” classes—Anglican ministers, Westminster schoolboys, doctors, scientists, and Royal Engineers.

  • Provenance

    This photograph is a part of the Galton Archive, which was deposited at the University College, London by Galton's executors soon after his death in 1911. Additions were made to the archive by his nephew, Edward Galton Wheler-Galton, and from other members of the family.
    For more on the history of the Galton archive, see: