Jaime Bullen, Evening Standard, February 22, 2017
Academics spoke out over a movement arguing the university’s association with Sir Francis Galton is unsuitable, stating he has been “vilified” for his past views.
Sir Francis is widely regarded as the “founding father of eugenics”, the belief that human life can improved by desirable genetics.
He was also renowned as a leading Victorian scientist credited with devising the first weather map and inventing a method for classifying fingerprints.
Following his death in 1911, he bequeathed a collection of items to the university where a lecture theatre and laboratory are now named after him.
But activists have suggested the association should be halted following his views on selective breeding which they say paved the way for Nazi ideology.
He has also been branded an “inventor of racism”.
A campaign, entitled Galton Must Fall, questions whether university rooms should be renamed to remove his legacy from the institution.
It echoes the Rhodes Must Fall protest for a statue of imperialist Cecil Rhodes to be removed from an Oxford University college which proved to be unsuccessful.
Dr Niall McCrae, a lecturer in nursing at King’s College London, and Roger Watson, professor of nursing at the University of Hull, accused activists backing the movement of “cultural vandalism” on the Times Higher Education website.
They said: “People of the past were not perfect, and they cannot keep up with the whims of contemporary ideology.
“The lecture theatre named after Galton at UCL, his laboratory and bust, honour his seminal achievements.
“It would be intellectual and cultural vandalism to remove his name, but sadly this is part of a broader trend in universities.
“Many scholars will be well aware of the censorial and airbrushing tendencies of radical students, and administrators often appear spineless in defending their greatest alumni.”
UCL history undergraduates Miguel Alegre and Alberto Delclaux said the debate on whether to scrap Sir Francis’ name from the university needed to be led by historical research instead of emotion.
They wrote: “His endorsement of selective breeding can arguably be construed as paving the way for the ideology of racial hygiene in Nazi Germany.
“His pivotal role in the eugenic movement, though firmly rooted in the broader assumptions of his age, shocks many of our contemporaries. Whether or not Galton must fall, we are in no position to judge.”
A spokesman for UCL told the Evening Standard that were no plans to remove Sir Francis’ name from anything at the university