Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Burt, Cyril Lodowic

British psychologist and psychometrician; his work was focused in two areas: multivariate statistics and the genetics of intelligence. In the first, Burt succeeded and thus inherited work involving Spearman’s statistical work. The second area proved the more controversial; through a series of twin studies (1943-6), Burt estimated the heritability of intelligence to be 0.70, a finding that led him to conclude that environment had less to do with general intelligence than did one’s genetic constitution. Shortly after Burt’s death he was accused by the medical correspondent to the (London) Sunday Times of falsifying data used in the twin studies. Since then, scientists have published opinions on both sides of the affair. Although Burt’s name has not been cleared, a study of twins reared apart has been completed in Minnesota that reported an equally strong heritability for IQ, using a much larger sample.