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View Full Version : Were the Victorians more intelligent than us ?


SpringHeeledJack
13th May 2013, 17:37
The Victorians were smarter than us, study suggests - Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10053977/The-Victorians-were-smarter-than-us-study-suggests.html)

It often seems that today 'we' are cushioned with technology that makes us dumber rather than smarter in real terms, so perhaps a hundred odd years ago the average like for like citizen was more intelligent.



SHJ

tony draper
13th May 2013, 17:44
IMHO the Victorians produced the greatest generations this country ever knew or ever will know,we shall never equal them.
:)

Mac the Knife
13th May 2013, 17:46
Yes, they didn't watch TV and if they wanted music they had to make it themselves.

If they wanted to communicate, they had to hand-write a letter (and think about their writing),

And etc., etc.

'Ol man Mac

:cool:

500N
13th May 2013, 18:07
They traveled and explored the world, not knowing and making do
as they went.

Lon More
13th May 2013, 18:15
I'm not so sure. It depends on how wide the sample group was.
Did it consist only of the Upper Classes, as the illustration would suggest, or were also the mill workers, miners, etc. who created the wealth to allow them to indulge in their hobbies also included?

Airborne Aircrew
13th May 2013, 18:22
Did it consist only of the Upper Classes, as the illustration would suggest, or were also the mill workers, miners, etc. who created the wealth to allow them to indulge in their hobbies also included? Errr... Social status and wealth have absolutely no bearing on IQ...

Lon More
13th May 2013, 18:26
Errr... Social status and wealth have absolutely no bearing on IQ...

err no, and I never suggested it did. But I was querying the sample used. I suppose it would have been considered as "animal cunning" among the lower classes

Davaar
13th May 2013, 20:47
I suppose it would have been considered as "animal cunning" among the lower classes

That, Lon, is perhaps less than fair. Many of the great Victorian engineers were illiterate until quite late, as late as early teens. David Livingstone was a mill-boy in Blantyre until about the same stage.

Buy a copy of "Self-Help" by Samuel Smiles, and stand by to be astonished and impressed and, I suspect, humbled. I do strongly recommend that.

That was the time when "working men" would club to buy and discuss a newspaper, and "almost-colleges" sprang up for "night-school", which we now know as old-established universities. In Glasgow, for example, there was Anderson's College, which became the Royal College of Science and Technology, which became the University of Strathclyde. When it made the last move, the University offered to trade its brand new BSc for an old ARCST (Associate of the Royal College of Science andTechnology). "Thanks; but No thanks!" was the response of many.

In Glasgow one could study medicine at the University of Glasgow and graduate with medical and surgical degrees (MB, ChB); or if a poor "lad o' pairts", study at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, and become an "LRCPS", as I recall. Our own doctor was one of the latter.

Nervous SLF
13th May 2013, 21:05
Noooooo they allowed those suffragette wimin and look whats happened since :ooh:

Ooopps here comes SWMBO gotta go.:sad:

Tankertrashnav
13th May 2013, 21:27
The Victorians took seven years to build the Forth Bridge from scratch.

It took longer than that for present day civil engineers to widen the M5 bridge over the Avon at Bristol to take a fourth lane in each direction

Tourist
13th May 2013, 21:54
Social status does actually have an impact on IQ.

The test is imperfect and definitely favours middle class westerners.

mikedreamer787
14th May 2013, 00:51
Since when were Victorians more intelligent?

South Australians are smarter than any of 'em!

Hydromet
14th May 2013, 02:31
Quite correct, Mike. If the Victorians were intelligent, they'd move anywhere else to get away from the weather.

500N
14th May 2013, 02:39
" South Australians are smarter than any of 'em!"


At least we don't have leaders who wear pink shorts
and Safari suits :O ;)

probes
14th May 2013, 03:45
It depends. If one of us were put into a cave, we'd look absolute dimwits trying to find the switch to get some light. :hmm:
And it really is alarming how I remember no phone numbers any more after my mobile took over the task.

notmyC150v2
14th May 2013, 04:00
I think we are just intellectually lazy whilst at the same time more highly educated (as a group) than the Victorian era folks.

There is this great quote doing the rounds along the lines of,

"We are the most highly educated generation in the history of the world and we are in danger of dying out from ignorance" or something like that anyway. The quote was a response to the current mad fad against innoculations.

Krystal n chips
14th May 2013, 05:09
Whilst the legacy of Victorian civil engineering is self-evident today, lets not forget they had a large source of manpower, there was no nasty legislation, as in protection for the workers, and life was relatively cheap.

Child labour was common as was poverty, even if standards did start to rise.

You can almost hear some on here pining for those days.

Medicine did advance, as did exploration of the world, but the social divides in the UK remained firmly in place.

Yes, this was a developing era, but it took an awful lot of wasted lives to produce the results we see today.

Are we, the current generations, more intelligent?......well we've made significant advances in most areas, but the reverse is that, by doing so, we have, and are, becoming so reliant on technology, in parts of the world ar least, and the comforts of our developments in living standards, that we are becoming blase to the extent that any failings in these areas leave us exposed and vulnerable.

aviate1138
14th May 2013, 05:13
Patent Applications in Victorian times were enough to prove they were more intelligent IMHO

sitigeltfel
14th May 2013, 05:20
The Victorians took seven years to build the Forth Bridge from scratch.

Things have never been the same since we ran out of "scratch".

scotbill
14th May 2013, 07:45
Don't forget WW1 which took out three quarters of a million of our young men.
Initially it was a volunteer army and many of the creme de la creme of our best schools died walking across no man's land, revolver in hand.
They should have been the leaders of the future and many would argue that we have been paying the penalty ever since.

Then there was WWII.

500N
14th May 2013, 07:54
Scotbill

It also took out one hell of a lot of very highly skilled workers
as well. I am referring to the gun trade here where a lot of the
experienced hands on people were lost - actioners, engravers,
filers etc.

Lon More
14th May 2013, 08:18
Davaar wroteMany of the great Victorian engineers were illiterate until quite late,
How many millions more lived their entire lives out in ignorance? Intelligence, and genius, totally waste struggling to feed families.
Yes I know there were exceptions, Oor Andra, for example. Still a lot of people benefiting from his legacies, although not the politically most astute Scot ever born.
I think the generation that was born at, or just after, the end of the Victorian age was more intelligent and greater; the Logie Bairds, the Listers, the Nye Bevans,

Had the Forth Bridge ben built according to the original plans it wouldn't have stayed up for seven years.

edited to add; Granddad was called up in WW!, got a Blighty wound the first day at Arras and was bought home to recuperate. Later he was given the choice of returning to the pit or the front. He chose the pit. The men there were too intelligent to want to kill each other. He was probably one of the most intelligent men I knew. Left school at about 12, so little proper school learning (you don't need much to shovel coal) but in later life spent much of his time in the library at the Miners' Institute and following many evening classes on literature and science.

PLovett
14th May 2013, 12:43
I am reminded of an account written by one of Australia's more prolific authors of a trip that he did through outback Australia visiting many of the remote cattle stations before there was satellite television or the internet and the only radio station available was the public broadcaster.

He was struck by the level of intelligent conversation that he had in many of the stock camps that he visited. Ideas that he had been introduced to at university were often discussed. When he asked about this he found that many of the men were constantly seeking books to read and the mighty a tome, the better it was. These books would inevitably be passed around and the ideas contained therein discussed at length.

Some forty or so years later he repeated the trip and noted that these discussions had entirely disappeared with the introduction of satellite television and the proliferation of media pap. I suspect the Victorians were more creative with their time; they were certainly immune from the mindless drivel that comprises most media these day which gave them more time to be creative. More intelligent? Probably not but far more creative.

onetrack
14th May 2013, 13:25
I think PL has nailed it very well. The constant impact of todays media advertising would be enough to dull anyones creativity. Advertising and consumerism have become the developmental hallmarks of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Did you know that marketing researchers have now calculated that a consumer can form an opinion about a website in 50 milliseconds? :rolleyes:

http://www.tushnet.com/law/gone.pdf

More importantly (referring to the article in the OP's link) - how did Victorians measure milliseconds? I was under the impression this fundamental and major scientific advance was only developed in the 20th century.
Googling "when was the millisecond first measured?", left me no further advanced in my knowledge levels.

603DX
14th May 2013, 15:00
The Victorians took seven years to build the Forth Bridge from scratch.

It took longer than that for present day civil engineers to widen the M5 bridge over the Avon at Bristol to take a fourth lane in each direction


To be fair to those involved in the M5 widening project, I have to point out that you're comparing apples with oranges, TTN.

Indeed, it did take 7 years to build the railway bridge from scratch over the Forth, before the first train could cross.

But the M5 Avonmouth road bridge (opened in 1975) was an existing motorway structure, already 20 years in service carrying heavy traffic across the Avon, when in 1995 the widening contract work commenced. The work required was not just to widen, it was also necessary to carry out major strengthening of the whole structure to meet stringent new and much heavier traffic loadings specified by the Highways Agency, and to do this work whilst the structure was still in use by motorway traffic. Not the same as having a completely open and unobstructed site as the Forth builders did!

Yet despite the severe constraints placed on the work by traffic and safety considerations, necessitating a complex programme of short and longer term lane closures, the project was completed by 2000, a period of 5 years, 2 years less than the Forth Bridge, not more ... Credit where credit is due, I say, to all concerned! :ok:

(And no, I wasn't on that job, my involvement in large bridge projects in that vicinity was located between Aust and Beachley, over the Severn.)

SpringHeeledJack
14th May 2013, 15:23
PLovatt hit the nail on the head, technology whilst making everything so much easier also swamps us with so much 'white noise' as to negate it's advantages in many situations where being able to concentrate exclusively on the task at hand is needed. On a daily basis we get sidelined with so much rubbish that keeps productivity down by dilution of time (not me of course ;) ) and IMO makes us dumber. Instead of digesting information, we skim and allow search engines to be our memory.



SHJ

603DX
14th May 2013, 15:49
Yes SHJ, that concept of "not being able to see the wood for the trees" when using search engines too much was also touched on by some posts in the recent "Unipedia" thread. Laziness is a vice that many of us suffer from, which doesn't exactly help us to sharpen our wits in this respect, either! Mind you, if by some time-warp the Victorians had had access to the internet, who thinks they wouldn't have made use of it? The really clever, intelligent thing is to use it selectively, I think.

SpringHeeledJack
14th May 2013, 16:28
if by some time-warp the Victorians had had access to the internet, who thinks they wouldn't have made use of it? The really clever, intelligent thing is to use it selectively, I think.

Since when do we humans ever use things selectively though ? :} The road to hell is paved with good intentions etc etc.....



SHJ

tony draper
14th May 2013, 16:48
Must have been a more interesting time to be a scientist,they had a broad field to mooch around in,nowadays the various branches of science are so specialized and focused, I think it must be a tad boring but that might just be me,I have always admired the Scientists but I would not have made a gudun,I have a grasshopper mind I lack the necessary focus.
:)

probes
14th May 2013, 18:18
t took an awful lot of wasted lives to produce the results we see today.
Quite so. Today we have progressed like hell and waste the lives voluntarily on booze, drugs and yellow crap. Oh yes, and virtual games.
Also agree with PL and onetrack.

Davaar
14th May 2013, 19:37
but in later life spent much of his time in the library at the Miners' Institute and following many evening classes on literature and science.

Lon, perhaps I misread you, so let me ask and be sure.

I wrote earlier at some length that in Victorian times, mid- to late- 19th century, many capable young people set out with great educational disadvantages, but that were able nevertheless to make good through great determination and also through the good offices of parallel system of later education that grew up.

That does not suggest the early disadvantages were fictitious.

Now you tell us of your relative at the Miners' Institute.

Surely he proves my point?

tony draper
14th May 2013, 19:49
Mechanics Institutes prevailed round here built and funded by subscription from the working man and by the more enlightened members of the boss class,I think there is still one in my town but I don't imagine it still serves its original function,ie library lecture hall ect,I could be wrong though.
:)

Blacksheep
14th May 2013, 21:33
The London Mechanics Institute became Birkbeck College and provided the foundation for the University of London, the first, and for several years the only, university in Britain that allowed women to graduate.

onetrack
15th May 2013, 02:55
A station owner in the area North of Meekatharra, in Western Australia (who my Father worked for, over 4 years during the Great Depression), purchased the complete town library building (and its contents) from the Murchison mining town of Peak Hill, when the town suffered major decline in the late 1920's.

The building and its contents were hauled, intact, to the station, where it became a big focal point for all the locals, including my father.
He spoke often about what a boon the library was to the furthering of his education, in an area that is still "remote" today.

I'm not sure if the Peak Hill Library was funded, or partly funded by the Carnegie Institute - or if it was funded by a Miners Institute. Regardless, this style of investment and philanthropy was a very worthwhile investment in the future of the communities and nations where it was spent, and probably went a long way towards rapid Victorian advancement.

Re the OP's article link - I am of the opinion that using reflex timing as a major guide to the success of a nation or group is quite a narrow view. It takes a whole range of national features and abilities for a nation to develop and advance.

One has to ponder whether the researcher/s compared Australian Aboriginal reflex times to Victorian or even modern day white peoples reflex times. I'll wager many Aboriginals possess extremely fast reflexes, which were needed for hunting with spears and nulla-nulla's.
However, the fast reflexes of Aboriginals did nothing to advance their society beyond the Stone Age, and this is largely because they saw no need to investigate scientific or physics questions, as the Victorians did.

500N
15th May 2013, 04:22
These comments about outback Aus.

You read books like Tom Cole's book Hell West and Crooked
and others by him, they yearned for mail or news from afar
and comments were in the book about reading. Certainly no
information overload there :O

Also, I have noticed when in the outback that plenty of these
people have a large number of books and reference type stuff.
These are often older farm houses.

Just my HO.