Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/110

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

From the hours of retiring and rising given I judge the average length of sleep to be about eight hours, with few exceptions. Regularity in hours of work, eating, sleeping, and everything in fact, seems to have been rigidly observed. But is not this more the result of the temperament than the cause of long life? Is not the nervous-sanguine temperament more than any other like a balance-wheel or the pendulum of a clock? Is it not, after all, the great regulator of which the habits of these people are a manifestation, and to which is due their long life? And is it not something more than a regulator; is it not a repairer of waste and decay, a remedy more potent than any drug? I will not presume to answer these questions, for some of my more learned medical friends should be much better able to do so in spite of these new facts which I have.

Without more accurate and more complete information in relation to the ages of the parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and the brothers and sisters of these people in question, it is very difficult to make any deductions pertaining to hereditary longevity. Out of all the statistics that have been gathered there are none which are full or accurate enough to base any theory upon, other than that a tendency to long life may be transmitted from parents to children. To gather the necessary statistics in relation to, say, one thousand people, from eighty to ninety, would be extremely difficult, but it must be done before scientific thinkers can make deductions.

In order to mention all of the really remarkable things shown by this collection of facts, I should be obliged to make a serial of this article. I have tried to mention those only which seemed most interesting and important. One thing, to me, seems to stand out above all others: that a strong vital principle, manifested outwardly by firm build and constant activity, has been the chief cause of the advanced age of these people. Given a certain organization of mind and body, I think that a man may count on long life—always barring accidents—with reasonable certainty. Such an organization need not be put under any particular conditions of life; it will seek them out for itself, as a plant seeks out in the earth and the air such elements as aid its development. There is no reason that science can see why a raven should live longer than a snipe, but there is a reason, nevertheless: so we can see no reason why a tall, bony, muscular, light-skinned farmer should live longer than a short, stout, dark-skinned clerk; but I believe there is one, and one that science may some day discover.

I have one suggestion to make: that our national Government, when it takes the next general census, include in its statistics information about all the people in the United States above ninety, the kind of information to be determined beforehand by the most