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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/83

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REPLY TO MISS HARDAKER.

foot. Omitting altogether a consideration of the superior blood-circulation of women as a class, overlooking entirely the probability (indicated by the data of the idiot question heretofore discussed) that proportion of brain to body is an element in the capacity of the former, the individual rapidity of circulation, the richness of food in brain-making material become important terms of our problem. The opium-eater, the wine-drinker, the consumer of brain-stimulants, certainly drive more than a proportional share of blood to the brain. At the same time there is always a personal equation to vary the proportional action of food-supply. The brains of Moses and Mohammed were stimulated by prolonged fasts. The circumstances of travel, temperament, companionship, wealth, the passions, music, art, dancing, machine-stitching, and a thousand others, which can never be averaged, often exert an adventitious influence on the appropriation of fuel for thought. These influences are entirely independent of food-consumption and brain-size; they defy the application of any law of mechanics.

But Miss Hardaker's scientific argument, if true, proves too much; for if men, the greater consumers, think more or even better because of the large size of their bodies and the larger power of their digestive organs than women do, then it must follow that the larger and healthier men as a class must think, if not more, at least more profoundly, than smaller and less robust men. Yet the bulk of the world's thought has not been done by men of superior physique or even of superior health. Aristotle, Napoleon, Jeffrey, Thiers, were short in person; Shakespeare, Buckle, Comte, were delicate in frame; Descartes and Bacon were always sickly; Heine wrote his best while in physical agony; Newton and Spinoza were slight in form and of medium height; Herbert Spencer's health has always been precarious; Mrs. Browning was a life-long invalid; while, unfortunately for a theory based upon superior digestion, Goethe and Carlyle were confirmed dyspeptics.

The instances here cited are by no means exceptional. Indeed, the seeker for data under this head will find that, instead of larger and more healthy physiques evolving a larger average amount of mental power than smaller and less robust ones, the contrary result is emphatically true. As a matter of fact, the circumstance of superior muscular development seems unfavorable to great exertion of the mind. The demands of the body itself are in large men imperative. The waste of the system must be repaired, and the first draughts of energy must go to this purpose. Afterward, though the potential energy represented by the food consumed may still be stored up, there is little power or little inclination to apply that energy to thought. The college student who is most active in the field, who has the greatest height in his stockings, and the biggest biceps, is rarely at the head of his class. Not only does the larger body require more in proportion