Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/281

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"wild boy of Aveyron." This was an idiot found in the forests of Aveyron, and who was taken up by Itard for the purpose of solving "the metaphysical problem of determining what might be the degree of intelligence and the nature of the ideas in a lad who, deprived from birth of all education, should have lived entirely separated from the individuals of his kind." The philosophy of the time was consonant with its theology; for, while theology taught that man is fallen from a primitive state of paradisaical innocence, philosophy held that he has fallen away from the perfection of a "state of nature." Hence there was great curiosity to find out what would be the state of mind of one who had not been perverted by association with civilized people. Nothing, of course, came of Itard's experiment, except that he had got hold of an idiot of low grade, and satisfied himself that it might be possible to improve such natures in some small degree.

Dr. Seguin was a pupil of Itard (who lived till 1838), and, receiving from his teacher the facts and results that he had gathered, young Seguin entered systematically upon this line of study. The subject was beset with great difficulties, and the young Frenchman entered upon it with enthusiasm as a labor of love, and devoted several years to a thorough research into the causes and philosophy of idiocy and the best methods of dealing with it. As the investigation was a practical one, Dr. Seguin organized schools in connection with public institutions and also under private control; and it was the successful results in these establishments which became the basis of his numerous publications on his chosen subject. In 1839 he published, in connection with the celebrated alienist Esquirol, his first pamphlet; and in 1846 he put forth an elaborate treatise expounding his system of the treatment of the idiotic and weak-minded. This work became at once the authorized text-book of the subject, and placed its author in the front rank of living physiological psychologists.

Dr. Seguin came to this country in 1848, and resided for ten years in Ohio. He then returned to Paris, but came back in 1862, and has lately resided in New York. He continued his observations and inquiries on the subject of idiocy in this country, and organized several institutions devoted to their care and training. He, moreover, had the satisfaction of seeing the rise of a great number of schools for the feeble-minded and lowly organized, which adopted his methods of cultivation with remarkable success. To him, in fact, more than to any other man, belongs the immortal honor of showing to what a degree the badly-born—the congenital failures of nature—can still be redeemed and elevated to comparative usefulness. How much has been thus gained by the combination of scientific knowledge and skillful, persevering art is thus stated by Professor Seguin himself: "Not one in a thousand has been entirely refractory to treatment; not one in a hundred who has not been made more happy and healthy; more than thirty per cent, have been taught to conform to social and moral law, and rendered capable of order, of good feeling, and of working like the third of a man; more than forty per cent, have become capable of the ordinary transactions of life under friendly control, of understanding moral and social abstractions, of working like two-thirds of a man; and twenty-five to thirty per cent, come nearer and nearer to the standard of manhood, till some of them will defy the scrutiny of good judges when compared with ordinary young women and men."

Dr. Seguin was the author of many publications, the last of which was the second edition of his "Report on Education" as United States Commissioner at the Vienna Universal Exposition. We noticed this report upon its first appearance, but a revised edition appears