This paper presents a rhetorical history of the invention of the phrase “nature versus nurture.” We argue that, from its start, nature versus nurture functioned as a scientific-political topos. We analyze Sir Francis Galton’s invention of nature versus nurture to demonstrate the need for topoi that attend to the political dimensions of scientific topoi. The emphasis on scientific-political topoi demonstrates the ability of topoi to trace the political and contextual operations of scientific inquiry. This approach draws attention to the racist and racial hierarchical assumptions of nature versus nurture from the inception of the topos.

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