Sir Cyril Burt

Cyril Lodowic Burt (1883–1971) was born in London, the son of the Galton family physician, and young Cyril was exposed to Galton’s ideas about eugenics at an early age. He was a student of William McDougall (and later Külpe) and worked with both Spearman and Pearson at the University of London. Burt accepted Spearman’s concept of g and believed education should be stratified accord- ing to a student’s natural intelligence. Students of high native intellectual ability should be provided with more challenging educational opportunities than students with low intellectual ability. Further- more, Burt believed it is fruitless to try to raise a student’s intellectual ability through remedial educational programs.

In 1932 Burt followed Spearman as the Chair of Psychology, and in 1946 he was the first person to be knighted for contributions to psychology (Osborne, 1994). Burt retired from the University of London in 1950 but continued to publish papers providing data supporting the idea that g was largely inherited. For example, he studied identical (mono- zygotic) twins reared together and reared apart. He reported that whether reared together or apart the correlation of measures of intelligence for the iden- tical twins was .70 or higher. On the other hand, specific factors (s). Because measures of s tended to be inter-correlated, Spearman postulated an over- riding kind of intelligence that he called a gen- eral factor or general intelligence (g). According to Spearman, g is determined almost exclusively by inheritance. Spearman, then, had a two-factor theory of intelligence; one factor (s) described spe- cific abilities, and the other (g) described general intelligence.

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