Full Page Index


  1. Eugenics and the Jew1910
  2. Negroes and the Slave Trade. Letter to The Times. 1857
  3. Africa For The Chinese. Letter to The Times. 1873
  4. 'Africa for the Chinese'. Letter to The Times from 1873 Gilbert Malcolm Sproat.
  5. Hereditary Deafness. Francis Galton, 1885.[Review of 'Upon the formation of a deaf variety of the human race', Alexander Bell]

"A man, as a general rule, owes very little to what he is born with -- a man is what he makes of himself." Bell, Alexander Graham

Francis Galton

Transcript of the article published in the JEWISH CHRONICLE of July, 20, 1910.

Eugenics and the Jew.

Interview for the 'Jewish Chronicle' with SIR FRANCIS GALTON.

The word 'eugenics' will forever be associated with the name of Sir Francis Galton, who has devoted a long life to the pursuance of a high ideal - that of improving the fitness of the human race and of striving to secure that children born into the world shall be born in the sense that they shall not start life handicapped at the outset by physical defects due to the imperfect health or physique of their progenitors. It may be said that from the days of Moses Jews have been 'eugenists' apart from the hygienic laws enjoined in the Mosaic code, which affect the individual rather than the race. The intense love of children, and the idealisation of home life have contributed in a notable degree to the production of a race that has withstood greater trials and tribulations than have befallen any other race in history. A representative of the JEWISH CHRONICLE recently visited Sir Francis, who is now in his eighty-ninth year, to seek his views concerning the bearing of eugenics on the Jewish Race and the life of the Jewish people.

The Mosaic Code and Eugenics.

How would you define eugenics? was our representative's first question.

"It is the study," Sir Francis replied, "of the conditions under human control which improve or impair the human race."

Do you think that the hygienic regulations of the Mosaic Code have contributed to the fitness of the Jewish race?

"I am willing to believe that their indirect influence has been great."

Are they more responsible, in your opinion, than the vicissitudes which the Jewish people has had to go through?

"Both have played a part in producing the fitness of the Jewish race. The wish of the Jewish woman to be married and have children is an important factor. It is one part of eugenics to encourage the idea of parental responsibility: the other part is to see that the children born are well born. It is a praiseworthy feature of the Jewish religion that, as a religion, it enjoins the multiplication of the human species. But it is still more important to determine that children shall be born from the fit and not the unfit."

The Effect of Environment and Persecution.

Sir Francis the modern and somewhat startling view that environment has little effect on human development, but that nature counted for very much more.

What effect do you think persecution has had on the Jewish race?

"So far as persecution weeds out those who are unfit so far it tends to evolve a race suited to meet hard conditions. We in England have reaped the good effects of persecution in that we have benefited enormously from the immigration of the Huguenots, who were among the best of their race and who have handed down their qualities to many descendants."

Is it not rather immoral to look with satisfaction to persecution as an aid to race culture?

"It is not immoral but unmoral - it has nothing to do with morals. Persecution does not always produce good results. For instance, the persecutions in Spain seem to have destroyed the best part of the race, and the Napoleonic wars reduced the stature of Frenchmen to a notable degree. It is the aim of eugenics to supply many means by which the effects of these drastic and not always successful aids to race culture may be produced in a more scientific and kindly way."

Do you think that the constant migrations of the Jewish people have had any effect on their racial culture?

"I cannot speak generally. Each case must be judged on its own merits, and I am not enough of a historian to give any opinion worth having."

Eugenics and Religion.

From an earlier remark of yours I gather that in your view eugenics and religion may go hand-in-hand.

"I think that religious establishments may help forward the eugenic idea just as, in times past, they have thwarted it by celibate institutions."

How can the movement best be assisted?

"The immediate work is to obtain an accurate knowledge of a very large number of facts. Such work is being done by the Eugenic Laboratory, and it is very laborious. Institutions may help in keeping careful statistics and discussing them scientifically. It will then remain to popularise the results obtained by experts and to take further steps."

Sir Francis at the Jews' Free School

Sir Francis recalled a visit which he paid many years ago to the Jews' Free School, where he took a number of composite photographs for the purpose of determining whether it was possible to produce that way a distinct Jewish type. The results of the experiment were treated in a paper read by Mr. Joseph Jacobs at the Anthropological Institute. In an article in the 'Photographic News', which published the portraits, Sir Francis wrote: -

"They are, I think, the best specimens of composites I have ever produced....I may mention that the individual photographs were taken, with hardly any exception, from among Jewish boys in the Jews' Free School, Bell Lane.....They were children of poor parents, dirty little fellows individually, but wonderfully beautiful, as I think, in these composites. The feature that struck me the most as I drove through the adjacent Jewish quarter was the cool scanning gaze of man, woman and child, and this was no less conspicuous among the schoolboys. There was no sign of diffidence in any of their looks, nor of surprise at the unwonted intrusion. I felt, rightly or wrongly, that everyone of them was coolly appraising me at market value, without the slightest interest of any other kind."

The composites are reproduced in the 'Jewish Encyclopedia.' The paper read by Mr. Jacobs was published in the JEWISH CHRONICLE of February 27th, 1885. Sir Francis presided at the meeting of the Institute of which he was then President.

To our representative he expressed the view that the discussion on that occasion was of a very high order. After a lapse of twenty-five years he re-called the fact that Dr. Adler and Mr. Marcus Adler spoke with great weight at the meeting.

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Negroes and the Slave Trade. Letter to The Times from Francis Galton.
Eugenics, December 26, 1857.

Negroes and the Slave Trade.

To the Editor of the Times.


I do not join in the belief that the African is our equal in brain or in heart ; I do not think that the average negro cares for his liberty as much as an Englishman, or even as a serf-born Russian ; and I believe that if we can, in a fair way, possess ourselves of his services, we have an equal right to utilize them to our advantage as the State has to drill and coerce a recruit who in a moment of intoxication has accepted the Queen's shilling, or as a shopkeeper to order a boy whose parents had bound him over to an apprenticeship. I say an equal right, because if soldiers were abased and degraded by their profession, or if the duties of an apprentice tended to make him a worthless member of society, it would be an iniquitous exercise of tyranny to take advantage of the position of these persons to their manifest injury. But when the soldier is taught self-respect, and is made into a nobler man than he would have become if left in his village, and if the apprentice is trained into a useful member of an industrial class, there can be no just complaint of tyranny. These persons are simply treated as children by their masters, and compelled to do what they dislike for their future good and for that of society at large. Therefore, Sir, I say, with regard to these negroes, if we can by any legitimate, or even quasi-legitimate means possess ourselves, possess ourselves of a right to their services, and if we can insure that our mastership shall elevate them, and not degrade them, by all means work them well; but in proportion as we cannot act favourably upon them our interference becomes a curse to the Africans.

It is often argued, "let us not be too curious about the antecedents of the negroes, who are collected by the native chiefs ( of course for a 'consideration' ) as candidates for free emigration. Very likely they may be captured for this express purpose, but what of that? Africans are always fighting, and have no notion of personal liberty, and if the conquerors choose to sell their prisoners instead of keeping them as slaves, why should we abstain from buying?" To this I reply that the disorganisation induced in the whole of African society under the temptations of the slave trade is something truly frightful. We know, Sir, in our own country the effect of laws that give a premium to crime, and your columns have often denounced them. Raise the Custom-house tariff, and honest fishermen turn into ruffianly smugglers; allow people to insure their houses for more than they are worth, and what street would be secure from fire? The very burial clubs tempted mothers to murder. The award of "head money" had effect, about which report was rife, upon our cruisers in Malay waters. The railway mania tempted the respectable landowners of England to cheat corporate bodies without a qualm, and now the temptation of West Indian commerce seems sufficient to draw a section of Englishmen into the very vortex of an African slave trade. If, Sir, your readers will try to imagine themselves in a position where every fellow-creature is as a bank-note, which has only to be laid hold of and presented to one of the ever ready agents to be payable at sight, they will succeed in picturing to themselves the awful disorganization which must necessarily ensue - the wars for captives, the false accusations to obtain prisoners, the mutual suspicion of neighbours, and the abandonment of all steady labour for the lottery of slave catching. Most earnestly, therefore, do I deprecate an action on our part which, directly or indirectly, in the slightest degree would reintroduce a sale of negroes. The peaceful habits which have slowly been fostered among many African tribes would be swept away in a moment under the pressure of a temptation they were not strong enough to bear. What, then, is to be our course? I cannot believe that it is impossible for an African to enter our service in the colonies without being degraded like those in America. Let the philanthropists show how we can act justly towards our blacks when we get them. Now, as to how they are to be got. I do not at all think that adequate attempts have ever been made to obtain a free immigration. The number of recruits depends on the skill of the recruiting officer. We must ingratiate ourselves more with African tribes generally. As it is, those a few days journey from the coast know little or nothing of us. You are doubtless aware, Sir, that the generally spread belief concerning the whites is that they buy slaves in order to carry them across the sea, and there to eat them. It will require time to disabuse the native minds of these kinds of notions, but I fully believe it is to be done, and that by a constant and judicious political action we make our service respected, if not actually sought after ; and that by watching the turn of events and taking advantage of great national suffering, such as that the Caffres are now labouring under, we may succeed in deporting vast numbers of Africans to colonies where they will do us good service, and in which we shall not have to reproach ourselves with neglecting our duty towards them.

42, Rutland-gate.
Francis Galton

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A rejoinder to Galton's letter, by one Gilbert Malcolm Sproat, is also included below.

Africa For The Chinese. . Letter to The Times from Francis Galton.

To The Editor of The Times.


In a few days Sir Bartle Frere will return to England, and public attention will be directed to the East Coast of Africa. I am desirous of availing myself of the opportunity to ventilate some speculations of my own, which you may, perhaps, consider of sufficient interest to deserve publication in the Times. My proposal is to make the encouragement of the Chinese settlements at one or more suitable places on the East Coast of Africa a part of our national policy, in the belief that the Chinese immigrants would not only maintain their position, but that they would multiply and their descendants supplant the inferior Negro race. I should expect the large part of the African seaboard, now sparsely occupied by lazy, palavering savages living under the nominal sovereignty of the Zanzibar, or Portugal, might in a few years be tenanted by industrious, order loving Chinese, living either as a semi-detached dependency of China, or else in perfect freedom under their own law. In the latter case their would be similar to that of the inhabitants of Liberia, in West Africa, the territory which was purchased 50 years ago and set apart as an independent State for the reception of freed negroes from America.

The opinion of the public on the real worth of the Negro race has halted between the extreme views which have been long and loudly proclaimed. It refuses to follow those of the early abolitionists, that all the barbarities in Africa are to be traced to the effects of a foreign slave trade, because travelers continually speak of similar barbarities existing in regions to which the slave trade has not penetrated. Captain Colomb has written a well-argued chapter on this matter, in his recent volume. On the other hand, the opinion of the present day repudiates the belief that the negro is an extremely inferior being, because there are notorious instances of negroes possessing high intelligence and culture, some of whom acquire large fortunes in commerce, and others become considerable men in other walks of life. The truth appears to be that individuals of the mental caliber I have just described are much more exceptional in the negro than in the Anglo-Saxon race, and that average negroes possess too little intellect, self-reliance, and self-control to make it possible for them to sustain the burden of any respectable form of civilization without a large measure of external guidance and support. The Chinaman is a being of another kind, who is endowed with a remarkable aptitude for a high material civilization. He is seen to the least advantage in his own country, where a temporary dark age still prevails, which has not sapped the genius of the race, though it has stunted the developed the of each member of it, by the rigid enforcement of an effete system of classical education which treats originality as a social crime. All the bad parts of his character, as his lying and servility, spring from timidity due to an education that has cowed him, and no treatment is better calculated to remedy that evil than location in a free settlement. The natural capacity of the Chinaman shows itself by the success with which, notwithstanding his timidity, he competes with strangers, wherever he may reside. The Chinese emigrants possess an extraordinary instinct for political and social organization; they contrive to establish for themselves a police and internal government, and they give no trouble to their rulers so long as they are left to manage those matters by themselves. They are good-tempered, frugal, industrious, saving, commercially inclined, and extraordinarily prolific. They thrive in all countries, the natives of the Southern provinces being perfectly able to labor and multiply in the hottest climates. Of all known varieties or mankind there is none so appropriate as the Chinaman to become the future occupant of the enormous regions which lie between the tropics, whose extent is far more vast than it appears, from the cramped manner in which those latitudes are pictured in the ordinary maps of the world. But take a globe and examine it, and consider the huge but poorly-peopled bulk of Africa, by whose side the areas of India and of China look insignificant, and think what a field lies there for the development of a suitable race. The Hindoo cannot fulfil the required conditions nearly as well as the Chinaman, for he is inferior to him in strength, industry, aptitude for saving, business habits, and prolific power. The Arab is little more than an eater up of other men’s produce; he is a destroyer rather than a creator, and he is unprolific.

The history of the world tells a tale of the continual displacement of populations, each by a worthier successor, and humanity gains thereby. We ourselves are no descendents of the aborigines of Britain, and our colonists were invaders of the regions they now occupy as their lawful home. But the countries into which the Anglo-Saxon race can be transfused are restricted to those where the climate is temperate. The Tropics are not for us, to inhabit permanently; the greater part of Africa is the heritage of people differently constituted to ourselves. On that continent, as elsewhere, one population continually drives out another. Consider its history as it extends over successive centuries. We note how Arab, Tuarick, Fellatah, Negroes of uncounted varieties, Cadre, Hottentot surge and reel to and fro in the struggle for existence. It is into this free flight among all present that I wish to see a new competitor introduced-namely, the Chinaman. The gain would be immense to the whole civilized world if we were to out-breed and finally displace the negro, as completely as the latter has displaced the aborigines of the West Indies. The magnitude of the gain may be partly estimated by making the converse supposition –namely, the loss that would ensue if China were somehow to be depopulated and restocked by negroes.

The pressure of population in China is enormous, and its outflow is great and increasing. There is no lack of material for a suitable immigration into Africa. I do not say that it would be possible at any moment to persuade communities of men and women from Southern China to establish themselves in Africa; but I am assured, by excellent authorities, that occasions of political disturbances frequently arise when it would be practicable to do so by the promise of a free, or nearly free, grant of land. The Chinese have a land hunger, as well as a love for petty traffic, and they would find a field in which to gratify both of these tastes on the East African Coast. There are many Chinese capitalists resident in foreign parts who might speculate in such a system and warmly encourage it. If once successfully started, it ought to maintain itself. The colonist could not starve; and when they began to succeed they would send money to their relatives to enable them to follow, just as they now do from the many other parts of the world where they are located. For these reasons it is probable that the streams of emigration from China have sufficient "head" to enable them to reach and overflow the coasts of Eastern Africa if they were watched and judiciously diverted in that direction.

I have finally to speak of the political effort necessary to secure a free right of occupancy and of settlement at suitable points on the coast. No very serious obstacle seems to stand in the way; certainly none was met with when Liberia was founded. It is probable that as the success of such an enterprise would be of equally great value to all nations commercially interested in those parts, no national jealousy would be excited by its promotion, and the necessary territory could be obtained with little difficulty and at a small cost, to be advanced in the first instance as a charge on the land and hereafter to be redeemed.

Francis Galton,

[Francis Galton, letter to the Editor of The Times, June 5 1873.]

1. Note that this letter is commonly dated incorrectly as June 6 1873.

2. Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere, 1st Baronet, GCB, GCSI, (1815–1884) was a British administrator, and served as Governor of Bombay and as Governor of the Cape Colony, and High Commissioner for Southern Africa. In 1872 the foreign office had ent him to Zanzibar to negotiate a treaty with the Sultan, Barghash bin Said, for the suppression of the slave trade.

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'Africa for the Chinese'. Letter to The Times from Gilbert Malcolm Sproat.

To the Editor of the Times.


Mr. Galton's proposal to introduce the Chinese into Africa does not seem to be based on much real knowledge of these people. He broadly assumes that, in a few years, portions of East Africa might be tenanted by colonies of Chinamen, who should be entirely ruled by the Emperor of China or should be independent self-governing communities. He omits, however, to state what is quite well known - namely, that the Government of China is opposed altogether to the formation of dependencies; it has neither the desire nor the power to form or maintain remote dependencies. Again, Mr. Galton's assumption of the fitness of the people for colonization is not well-founded. Whether Chinamen will ever show that they can form entirely self-governing communities I cannot venture to say, but they have not yet given evidence of such capability. They have but little confidence in themselves, and the few who emigrate seek the protection of some strong foreign government, desirous merely, as you say, of finding places where they can make money, and from which they can hope to go back to China with their earnings. They do not take women with them to form families, and for many reasons, are about the last people in the world who might be expected to become colonizers and citizens. They will not even leave their bones in the countries where they labour. It will surprise well-informed Australians, Americans, and Canadians to learn from Mr. Galton's letter that he hopes to see colonies of Chinamen in East Africa, "living in perfect freedom under their own laws." Does not Mr. Galton know that Chinese emigrants generally, and particularly in the above-named countries, are, for the most part, the bond slaves of Chinese labour contractors who, in China, hold, and are entitled by Chinese law to hold, the home-staying father, or brother, or sister of the emigrant in pledge for the fulfilment of the emigrant's contract, under the penalty of serfage? Is it by such associations of Chinese emigrants that Mr. Galton hopes to regenerate Africa?

With regard to your correspondent's assumption that Chinamen are better fitted for citizenship than blackmen, Ican only say that I have lived for many years among both people in the same place; I have employed both people as servants, and counted them as neighbours and acquaintances. I dispute Mr. Galton's assumption that blackmen do not make good citizens. They may not have the petty ingenuity of the Chinese, but are quite as thrifty and hardworking as the Chinese are in several of our Colonies, and they form families and share usefully in managing local affairs. On the other hand, the Chinaman, as a citizen, and also socially, is almost useless. He is a strong, cheap labourer, and that is about all he is. If he ever attempted to be a citizen, it would be the Chinaman, not the coloured man, who would require "a large measure of external guidance and support." But Mr. Galton's "speculation" is hardly worthy of serious argument. I will just remark, in conclusion, that we have no good proof that China is so populous as we have assumed her to be. I have discussed this question of population often with Chinese merchants who spoke English and carried on business in America and Australia, and the result is that I should not be surprised to find that the population of China is considerably under 200,000,000, and that large tracts of agricultural land are lying waste in that country owing to bad laws and social conditions, which are inimical to agriculture. Chinamen, for many generations, are likely to have quite enough to do in their own country without taking Africa in hand.

June 5,
Gilbert Malcolm Sproat.

[Gilbert Malcolm Sproat (19 April 1834 – 4 June 1913) was a Scottish-born Canadian businessman, office holder, and author. Arriving on Vancouver Island in 1860, he helped to found the first sawmill in Port Alberni, British Columbia. ..From 1876 he served on the Indian Land Commission where he argued that sufficient land be allocated to First Nations people that they could remain self-sufficient...led to ... Sproat's resignation from the committee in 1880. Sproat Lake on Vancouver Island is named in his honour.]

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Hereditary Deafness. [Review of 'Upon the formation of a deaf variety of the human race', Alexander Bell]
Review in Nature 1885 Vol: 31 Pages 269-70

Hereditary Deafness. (1)
by Francis Galton.

The startling title of Mr. Graham Bell's admirable memoir is fully justified by its contents. It appears that there are upward of 33,000 deaf mutes in America, mostly collected in large institutions forming social worlds of their own, whose inmates intermarry or else contract marriages with the hearing relatives of their fellow pupils who themselves, in many cases, must have an hereditary though latent tendency to deafness. This state of things has been going on increasingly for two or more generations, with the result that congenital deafness, which in other countries appears sporadically, and mostly fails to obtain an hereditary footing, has become artificially preserved in America, and is intensified by inter-marriages until a deaf variety of the human race may be said to be established, There can be no question after reading the mass of evidence submitted by Mr. Graham Bell, of the general truth of this summary statement. That precise knowledge that we should be glad to possess, of the strength and peculiarity of the hereditary taint, is unfortunately unattainable owing to the imperfection of the records kept at the institutions of the after history of their pupils; but the data, such as they are, have been handled with great statistical skill by the author, so that he has squeezed all the information out of them that they appear competent to give.

We may now go a little more into details. It appears that out of six asylums, with an aggregate of 5823 pupils, 5 per cent have deaf relatives. Also that nearly half the pupils contract marriages, and that 80 per cent of those who do so marry together. This ratio of inter-marriage is much greater than it was in the beginning of the century, and it appears to have steadily increased from then up to the present time. It is unfortunate that the imperfection of the records kept at the institution make it difficult to ascertain the exact rate of the increase and the precise fate of all the issue of the marriages. This latter fact may, however, be estimated by working backwards, and finding the number of deaf-mutes known to exist among the ancestors of the present inmates of the asylums. The family history of many of these is appalling, such as "Grandfather, father, mother, and other relatives" ; "father, mother, one brother, and five uncles and aunts" ; two cases of "father, mother, one sister, one uncle, and one aunt" ; two cases of "father mother, two brothers, and two uncles," and so on. In one case as many as fifteen deaf-mute relatives are recorded. Genealogical trees are given of the families in which deaf-mutism prevails, and the large proportion of the members of those families who are congenitally afflicted is most painfully illustrated. The surnames of the inmates of deaf-mute asylums are analysed and the frequency is pointed out of the recurrence of many strange-sounding names, such as "Fahy," "Hulett," "Closson," "Brasher," "Copher," "Gortschlag," etc., apparently out of all proportion to the number of persons bearing those names in the general population.

The influences that promote the inter-marriage of deaf-mutes are fully described. The isolation of their class from the rest of the world is becoming more and more complete. Each institution is a self-sufficing 'alma mater' where every member feels at home, and with which each member continues his connection in after years. Gatherings of old pupils of both sexes, 'conversaziones', and other social meetings are of frequent recurrence, and what is most important of all, the highly-developed and very conventional gesture language of the deaf and dumb has already moulded them into a distinct nation. They think not in words, but in abbreviated symbolic gestures, and the sequence and association of their ideas is thus compelled to be idiomatic and widely different from the rest of the race. English and other spoken languages are foreign tongues to them, and are acquired, for the most part, very imperfectly. A separate mode of life is so congenial to persons reared under such exceptional surroundings, and of such exceptional natures, that unwise schemes have been from time to time proposed, of buying land in settlements for the deaf and dumb, where they should reside and form a secluded society of their own. They are content with their lot when they are brought into contact with none but themselves, but they are ill at ease, and feel themselves to be aliens, when they are forced into the presence of the outside world. What wonder that they should shrink from it, and inter-marry and strive to keep apart.

Instructive experiments on the rate at which a deaf breed of animals could be formed, might be made by breeding deaf cats, who are by no means inefficient mousers, and who show no signs of discontent at their lot. I may mention an observation of my own as having some possible pathological bearings It was this: during a country walk, I lunched at a roadside inn, where I saw a female cat with blue eyes, and asked and found that she was quite deaf, but was told that her kittens all heard perfectly. The only one of them that had been kept was in the room, and she certainly noticed my voice and other noises I made to attract her attention, just as readily as other kittens. Then it occurred to me to try her with the shrill notes of one of my little whistles, which I had in my pocket-book. She was absolutely deaf to these, and I doubt if she could have heard a note as shrill as even the chirp of a sparrow. Cats, as I have elsewhere observed, are eminently sensitive to shrill notes, so that the deafness of this kitten was a noteworthy proof of that the imperfect stages of the form of hereditary deafness to which she was subject consisted in the degeneration of that part of the auditory apparatus which is concerned in hearing shrill notes. I am told that no thorough anatomical investigation has yet been made in these matters, owing to insufficiency of subjects. It would therefore seem that a breed of deaf cats might be very acceptable to physiologists, and I have no doubt that such a breed might be easily established on any small and sparsely-inhabited island from which every hearing cat had been removed. Cats will not breed in strict confinement, and their roving habits at night make it impossible, under ordinary circumstances, to keep their breed pure; but in small islands, under the paternal despotism of a popular landlord, this and many analogous experiments in breeding varieties of small and hardy animals and plants, such, I mean, as would take care of themselves, might be carried out. I have often envied the facilities afforded to such projects by the geographical and social condition of the Scilly Islands.


1. "Upon the Formation of a deaf variety of the Human Race" by Alexander Graham Bell, National Academy of Sciences, New Haven, USA. November 13, 1883.

Alexander Graham Bell (3 March 1847 - 2 August 1922) was a Scottish scientist, inventor and innovator. Throughout his early life, Alexander Graham Bell was a British subject but in 1915, he characterized his status as: "I am not one of those hyphenated Americans who claim allegiance to two countries." Despite this declaration, Bell has been claimed as a "native son" by Canada, Scotland and the United States. Bell owes his immortality to his having been the first to design and patent a practical device for transmitting the human voice by means of an electric current. Bell, however, always described himself simply as a "teacher of the deaf," and his contributions in that field were of the first order.

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