Lynn took his final examinations in the summer of 1953, trying to conceal his antipathy for the department: “Apparently, I succeeded as I was awarded the Passingham Prize, which is given annually for the best psychology student of the year. On the basis of this I was awarded a three-year research studentship to work for a Ph.D.” That Autumn, Lynn decided to work on the relation between anxiety, intelligence and educational attainment in school children:
I began my research in a primary school in the January of 1954. I could not find any tests of anxiety for children so I constructed my own and gave these together with tests of intelligence, reading and arithmetic. I completed the work I was doing for my Ph.D. in the early autumn of 1955. The results showed a positively skewed curvilinear relation between anxiety and attainment in reading and arithmetic, which was more pronounced for reading than for arithmetic.
In the course of 1955, Lynn became engaged to Susan Maher, whom he had met during his first year at King’s College. When his fiancée broke the news to her mother, the poor woman wept for three days:
Susan’s parents hoped that she would find an old Etonian or at least a public school product, and she had come up with a former grammar school lad of obscure parentage from the provinces. Despite their disapproval, we had it our own way, as young people generally do. Our wedding took place at St Stephen’s church in London on the first of January, 1956.
In the spring of 1956, Lynn completed his PhD thesis and submitted it for examination. His external examiner was Cyril Burt, whose book The Subnormal Mind Lynn had recently trashed in a review for the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. It was only his second professional publication. “I have since learned,” writes Lynn, “that few academics can forgive a negative review and eventually will take their revenge when an opportunity occurs.” However, whether due to exceptional magnanimity or (more likely) a failure to notice the review, Burt was pleased with Lynn’s thesis and voted to award him the PhD.
Lynn applied for and won an appointment as assistant lecturer at the University of Exeter where psychology was a subdepartment attached to the education department, and Lynn was one of only three lecturers on the subject. He remained at Exeter for eleven years, during which time he and Susan would have three children.
To supplement his modest salary, Lynn served for a time as warden of one of the University’s residence halls. This enabled him to purchase his first car, a 1936 model with no lock on the door, as none was considered necessary in pre-War Britain: “Cars could be left on the streets without any danger that anyone would steal them or their contents.”
Among Lynn’s duties as warden was to make sure none of the students brought girlfriends over to spend the night. Being poorly cut out for the role of moral censor, he once let drop that he considered his duty to be the suppression of scandal rather than vice. A young man soon after called upon him to ask about his views in greater detail. Lynn responded that “the students were adults and not committing any criminal offence by using the condoms that had clogged the drains of the sewage system.” The fellow turned out to be a journalist, and the next day Lynn found his picture splashed across the front page of several national newspapers along with the headline “Girls in rooms, I don’t mind says blind eyed don.” He was relieved of his wardenship.
Lynn’s father advised him that “the trick for a successful academic career was to find your gold mine as early as possible, sit on it, and make your reputation developing it,” as he had done with the genetics of cotton. But Lynn was slow to discover a rewarding program of research: “I did not do anything of significance for the next twelve years or so.”
Lynn’s father also introduced him to the geneticist Reginald Ruggles Gates. Upon hearing that Lynn was a psychologist, Gates asked him what he thought about race differences in intelligence.
I told him that when I was at Cambridge we had been informed that blacks have a lower average IQ than whites and that this is caused by discrimination. Ruggles Gates told me he thought this was incorrect and that it is a genetic difference. This was the first time I had heard this view and as Ruggles Gates was a Fellow of the Royal Society and a distinguished geneticist I took it seriously. Gates also asked me my opinion about eugenics and I told him I had read the studies by Burt and Cattell showing that intelligence was declining and I agreed with Cattell that eugenic measures were needed to correct this. He told me that he took the same view.
In the 1959 UK general election Lynn voted Conservative for the first time because he approved of Harold Macmillen’s decision to end conscription and his promise to restrict immigration from the Britain’s former colonies:
I thought this was sensible because I believed it could be anticipated that there would be tension and conflict between the immigrants and the indigenous population. Some conflicts had broken out in the previous year when white youths in Nottingham and London attacked blacks, threw petrol bombs into their houses and smashed their windows.
Lynn understood that in-group preference is a human universal, and not a moral pathology from which Europeans uniquely suffer.
In December 1959 Lynn met Hans Eysenck: “I found talking with Hans was a real meeting of minds and unlike anything I had experienced before. I told him how uncongenial I had found psychology at Cambridge, and how poor the teaching was. He said this confirmed his own experience.” Eysenck had once had a Cambridge graduate as an assistant and had found her unable to calculate a correlation coefficient.
Eysenck invited Lynn to collaborate in testing certain hypotheses he was developing at the time, but their work failed to confirm Eysenck’s ideas: “I concluded that a beautiful theory had been destroyed by an ugly fact, as Thomas Huxley once put it.”
The quality of psychological research in England at this period seems to have left something to be desired. Lynn recalls:
One day in 1962, when I was reading The Times, my daughter Sophy, aged two and a half, came and sat on my knee and I pointed to the letter T and said “this is a T.” I then pointed to the letter S and said “this is an S.” Then I turned over a page, pointed to a letter T and asked “What is this?” She answered “a T.” Then I pointed to a letter S and asked “What is this”? She answered “S.” All this may seem unremarkable, but at the time the discovery that a two-and-a-half-year-old could identify letters was revolutionary. The prevailing theory was known as “reading readiness” and was set out by Magdalene Vernon, considered the foremost expert on perception in Britain, and Professor of Psychology at the University of Reading. The theory was that young children’s perceptual abilities are not sufficiently developed to identify letters until they are at least four and typically five years old, and hence it is impossible to teach children to read before this age. Now I had found that in a couple of minutes that a two-and-a-half-year-old could identify letters perfectly easily. It was obvious that Maggie Vernon could never have tried testing whether two-year-olds had the perceptual abilities to identify letters. I wrote a paper on this that was published in 1963 as Reading readiness and the perceptual abilities of young children. This caused a minor sensation in the worlds of education and psychology. I had a number of calls from journalists asking me to expand my revolutionary discovery and its implications, and it had quite a lot of coverage in the press.
In 1965 the Chairman of Lynn’s department hosted B. F. Skinner during a visit to Exeter and invited Lynn to meet him:
I asked him whether he would not agree than there are important genetic determinants of many behaviours, such as addictions to gambling and drugs, and also some genetic fears such as those of heights, spiders and snakes. He would have none of this. I pressed him on gambling addiction and his reply was that some unfortunate people hit the jackpot early on and this reinforced them so strongly that they became hooked. It could happen to anyone. I thought this was all nonsense and that Skinner was extraordinarily myopic in his world view. Some years later in 1996 when I met Ulrich Neisser who had been a student of Skinner’s at Harvard, he told me he agreed with me.
Lynn also took note of the Hart-Cellar Act passed by the US Congress in that year:
It would inevitably entail a huge alteration in the ethnic nature of the American population. The Kennedy brothers wanted to make the United States a new society and a new people, more racially, ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse than any nation on earth. I thought there was little doubt that they would succeed in their strategy for the destruction of the American population as an ethnically homogeneous people of largely north-west European origin, and so it has proved.
Lynn takes the occasion of Winston Churchill’s death in 1965 to record his dissenting opinion of the man:
I don’t think he was very bright. He had done poorly at school and failed in his first two attempts to pass the entrance exam to Sandhurst. In 1914 he was the leading advocate in the cabinet for declaring war on Germany, which I believe we should have avoided.
In 1915 Churchill was responsible for the disastrous British invasion of Gallipoli in which nothing was achieved and about 30,000 thousand lives were lost. In 1924 he was Chancellor of the Exchequer and took Britain on to the gold standard, against the advice of Maynard Keynes. This had a deflationary effect [and] contributed to the subsequent depression. In 1938–9 he was a leading advocate for declaring war on Germany. I believe this was yet another mistake and that if we had not done so, Hitler would have attacked Russia and we could have remained on the neutral sideline like Sweden and Switzerland, while Russia and Germany fought each other to a standstill.
After losing the 1945 election, Churchill returned to power as prime minister in 1951 at the age of 77 and held the position until 1955. He could have privatised the industries that Labour had nationalised and [turned into] loss-making monopolies. He could have repealed the Commonwealth Immigration Act that gave all the one billion or so citizens of the commonwealth the right to come and live in Britain. He could have abolished conscription which served no useful purpose because we had developed nuclear weapons that deterred the Russians from attacking us. He did none of these in these wasted years. He had had a stroke that seems to have impaired him, and most of the time he was drunk and stoned by continuously smoking cigars.
In early 1967 Lynn spotted an advertisement for a professorship at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in Dublin. He applied, came for an interview, and was offered a five-year appointment. He and his family moved to Ireland that August.
The purpose ESIR was to carry out research on the economic and social problems of Ireland and find policies that would help solve them. Foremost among these was that Ireland was quite economically backward compared with Britain, and I researched the literature to see what contribution I could make. It was not long before I discovered a study by John Macnamara that reported that the IQ of Irish 12-year-olds was 90 compared with 100 in Britain.
Lynn arranged to have a sample of Dublin pupils tested, and the results confirmed Macnamara’s findings.
I knew that intelligence is a determinant of earnings among individuals and groups. I knew Cyril Burt’s book The Backward Child in which he showed that children in the boroughs of London had different IQs and that these were highly correlated across the boroughs with the earnings of adults, and that this had also been shown by Maller in the boroughs of New York city. It seemed likely that the same would hold for nations and in particular for the economic backwardness of Ireland. This was how I first came to formulate the theory that differences in intelligence are an important determinant of national per capita incomes that I was to publish later, in collaboration with Tatu Vanhanen, in IQ and the Wealth of Nations.
By this time, Lynn had become somewhat more diplomatic than he had been in his youth. He realized his hosts might not respond positively to the idea that their country’s difficulties were attributable to their lower native intelligence, especially when an Englishman was the bearer of the news. Furthermore, he had been appointed to help find solutions for the country’s problems, and in the present case this could only mean eugenic interventions such as sterilization of the mentally retarded or incentives for graduates to have more children. While such ideas were widely out of favor by this time, Catholic Ireland was one of the few countries to oppose them even during the early-twentieth-century heyday of the eugenics movement.
Lynn contented himself with publishing a monograph entitled The Irish Brain Drain:
It reported research showing that there was a high rate of emigration of graduates from Ireland, and warned that this would reduce the average IQ of the remaining population. I advocated several policies to deal with this problem. First, the government had recently begun a programme for increasing the number of young people at universities on the grounds that this would be an investment in the economy. I argued there is no evidence that increasing university education enhances economic growth; in the case of Ireland, since so many graduates emigrated, it would be more likely to retard it. I particularly homed in on the medical schools, which produced about three times the numbers of physicians that could find employment in Ireland. The result of this was that the day after graduation the newly qualified physicians chartered a plane to take them on a one-way flight to the United States. I proposed that the medical schools should be cut down to a third of their existing size.
The government’s programme for the expansion of university education also recommended that this should be free. I argued that this proposal should be rejected on the grounds that as students benefited financially from a university education, they should contribute to the cost. In addition, I argued that goods and services that are provided free invariably attract a large demand that eventually becomes unsustainable. I also proposed that the government’s priority should be to reduce taxation, which was very high in Ireland and acted as an encouragement to the talented to emigrate.
The reaction to these sensible proposals was such as to suggest that Lynn might just as well have told his hosts they were congenitally stupid.
One of Lynn’s colleagues at the ESRI was John Raven, son of the inventor of the Raven’s Progressive Matrices intelligence test.
Raven junior had a large collection of results from a number of countries but it apparently never occurred to him to calculate national IQs from these. He made these available to me and later I used many of them to calculate IQs for a number of countries and show that these are a major determinant of national differences in per capita incomes.
In 1969, Lynn contributed to a volume critical of progressive education:
I argued that educational attainment is principally determined by intelligence and secondly by the values acquired from the family, that intelligence is largely determined genetically, and that there are innate social class differences in intelligence that would ensure that children from middle class families would always tend to do better in any system. I argued that the progressive agenda would reduce the educational standards of the most able and cited the much lower standards in American comprehensives compared with the selective European secondary schools as proof of this. I also argued that the grammar schools were a valuable conduit by which able working-class children could rise in the social hierarchy.
That same year, Arthur Jensen published his famous paper “How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?” in which he argued that the 15-point difference in IQ between blacks and whites in the United States was likely to have some genetic basis. Lynn read Jensen’s paper carefully and concluded that he was correct.
During his time at ESRI, Lynn discovered that the Irish tend not to suffer much from anxiety. More generally, he found that northern European nations have low anxiety, while the southern European nations and Japan had high anxiety. This suggested that there could be genetic differences in anxiety among these groups. It was Lynn’s first excursion into racial differences.
My work on national differences in anxiety was my principal achievement of my years in Dublin. I published my conclusions in National Differences in Anxiety, an ESRI monograph, and a fuller version in 1971 in my book Personality and National Character.
Sir Cyril Burt contributed an introduction to the book (“What I should like chiefly to commend are the methods he has adopted”), and Raymond Cattell wrote Lynn a letter full of praise. A number of other researchers have continued and extended Lynn’s research in this area, including Hans Eysenck and Phil Rushton.
One surprising thing Lynn discovered in the course of his study is that Ireland’s reputation as a hard-drinking nation is not born out by the data: the country actually has an unusually low rate of alcoholism. This finding should have come as good news to the Irish, but Lynn met with resistance from some who had taken a kind of pride in their country’s popular reputation, as well as with professional researchers who had made careers out of studying the largely imaginary problem.
In the Summer of 1971, Lynn traveled to Belgium to give a talk on his research:
Art Jensen was also at the conference and gave a lecture on race differences in intelligence. I had not met Jensen and I was interested to hear him and see how the audience reacted. As he began to speak, there were shouts of Sieg Heil! from the audience, but after some pleas from the chairman the shouts died down and Jensen was able to deliver his lecture. Afterwards I met up with Art and we had dinner together. He told me that he began looking at the evidence on the black-white difference on the assumption that this was solely environmentally determined, but the more he considered the data, the more evident it became that genetic factors are also involved.
Lynn had ruffled so many feathers in Dublin that he decided not to wait around to see whether his five-year contract would be renewed. When the University of Ulster advertised for a professor to set up a new psychology department, Lynn applied for and got the position. This was not an ideal time to resettle a family in Northern Ireland, since the three-decade low intensity civil war known as the Troubles had begun just a couple years earlier: “the future looked threatening and we decided it would be best if Susan and the children moved to London, where Susan soon obtained a lectureship in Russian history at the South Bank Polytechnic.” This separation would lead to the couple’s divorce in the late 1970s.
Lynn moved to Northern Ireland in April 1972, getting into a serious accident on the way:
As I came round a corner out of the small town of Tobermore I was confronted by the sight of a car totally out of control and veering from one side or the road to the other. I slammed on the breaks and went smash into the car’s passenger side. The impact put my head through the windscreen and knocked me unconscious. Luckily my car was built on a heavy chassis, almost like a tank. The car I hit was made of light steel and the whole side caved in. It was being driven by a young woman and her father was in the passenger seat. The impact killed him instantly.
Lynn spent a week in the hospital and was left with a scar on his forehead still visible in photographs.
He bought a ruined Georgian mansion in the Ulster countryside, pulled down about half which he considered beyond repair, and spent the next quarter of a century restoring the rest: “The satisfying thing about building work is that it is always possible to find a solution, whereas in psychology some problems are intractable.”
Lynn appointed two lecturers to make up the new department, and the first thirty psychology students enrolled at the end of September.
At the end of the term I gave a party at my house for my students and lecturers. As the students left, I heard one of them say to another “He must be lonely living in that great house all by himself, poor old bugger.” He was right about this. I have never been entirely happy living on my own.
Lynn found that setting up and running a psychology department occupied a great deal of his time, and he realized that needed an assistant in order to make progress with his own research. He obtained a grant for this purpose and “appointed Susan Hampson, who was to be an invaluable assistant for a number of years.”
End of Part 2 of 3