Knighted psychologist accused of fraud
The hugely-influential work of educational psychologist Sir Cyril Burt dominated the nature v nurture debate in the 1950s to the early 70s. His claimed experiments into similarities between identical twins showed heredity, not upbringing, played the greater part in determining intelligence.
But Burt's research has since been discredited. Investigations into Burt’s research after his death concluded that much of it was made-up and his two fellow researchers appear not to have existed.
Burt's findings were used to ‘provide scientific (and moral) support for the policy of academic selection in British schools,’ says the Times Saturday Review*.
Britannica says debate continues over Burt’s behaviour but ‘all sides agreed that his later research was at least highly flawed, and many accepted that he fabricated some data.’ Nevertheless, his ‘earlier work’ had been sound and ‘justified his reputation as the foremost pioneer of educational psychology in Britain.’
The trashing of Burt’s pioneering reputation will be the subject of ‘Rob Newman’s Total Eclipse of Descartes’, to be broadcast on Radio 4, 12 September, 18.30
*8 September 2018, behind paywall