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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/709

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CURIOUS FACTS OF INHERITANCE.

not that any peculiarity should be inherited, but that any should fail to be inherited; and Darwin remarks that the most correct way of viewing the whole subject would be to look at the inheritance of every character as the rule, and non-inheritance as the anomaly.

It is obvious that instances of inheritance are most likely to be noticed and recorded when the inherited peculiarity is striking and abnormal. Countless instances of inheritance come under our notice almost every day; but the vast majority of them are too slight and insignificant to attract attention. A slight peculiarity of feature, complexion, or voice will readily pass unnoticed; but if a striking deformity be inherited, or some disease pursue a family through several generations, it can hardly escape the most careless observation. Cases are on record of families whose members were characterized by the possession of a supernumerary digit on the hands and feet, and this remarkable peculiarity has been transmitted through five generations, showing how strong is the force of inheritance even in such a minor detail of structure. A still more singular instance is that of Lambert, the well-known "porcupine-man," whose skin was thickly covered with warty projections, which were periodically molted. He had six children, who were similarly affected; and two of his grandsons inherited the strange peculiarity. The writer is acquainted with a gentleman who has a marked drooping of the left eyelid. His son inherits this peculiarity, but in a less remarkable degree. One of the most singular instances of inheritance is that recorded by Decandolle. There was a family in France of which the leading representative could, when a youth, pitch several books from his head by the movement of the scalp alone, and he used to win wagers by performing this feat. His father, uncle, grandfather, and his three children possessed the same power to the same unusual degree. This family became divided eight generations ago into two branches, so that the head of the above-mentioned branch is cousin in the seventh degree to the head of the other branch. This distant cousin resided in another part of France, and on being asked whether he possessed the same faculty, immediately exhibited his power.

Haller, the celebrated physiologist, records that the family of the Bentivoglio all possessed a tumor which used to swell when a damp wind blew, and this strange peculiarity was transmitted from father to son. The frequency among the Romans of surnames indicating some physical peculiarity—Naso, Labeo, Bucco, Capito—would seem to show that the fact of certain types of feature being transmitted through several generations had already been remarked. This fact lies almost unnoticed under many current forms of expression. We speak of a certain type of face being aristocratic or the reverse, by which we mean that physical features characterizing certain classes are transmitted so surely as to become the recognized appanage of those classes. The aristocracy of Western Europe pride themselves