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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/545

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NEW FACTS IN ALCOHOLIC HEREDITY.

thrown down a steep embankment. The car-side was broken in, and both were thrown out, only a little bruised. In a few moments one was fully intoxicated. The other, the narrator, could not understand this state or explain it in any way. From these and other statements which I have gathered I conclude that these cases are not infrequent, but, from want of accurate observation and the difficulty of obtaining the facts, they are overlooked. As far as it could be determined, I think that every case had a prominent substratum of direct heredity from inebriate ancestors. In the partial history of some of these cases some form of brain-exhaustion was present, and the shock or paralysis brought to light the special pathological symptoms of alcoholic poisoning. It would be foolish to deny that this was a special nerve and brain defect transmitted from the parents, and only came to light from the action of some particular cause.

In the case of a total abstainer, who, during some state of excitement, manifested all the symptoms of intoxication, where beyond doubt he had not used any form of alcohol, and where inebriety existed in the ancestors, it would be, a most reasonable conclusion to infer an origin in heredity, which burst into activity in obedience to some unknown exciting cause. From this point many and varied questions start up, which future observations and studies alone can determine. I think these cases are of the same class as idiots and imbeciles, with special symptoms of alcoholic poisoning, as a direct heredity from the parents; any difference being simply in the fact that these special pathological defects are dormant, but only appear from the action of some peculiar cause. This seemingly represents the conditions of the parents at the time of conception or some antenatal impression. The second class of acquired toxic states have less of mystery, and are more common. They are of the class of men who have been inebriates or intoxicated, and have become total abstainers, but from the same unknown causes suddenly manifest all the old signs of intoxication. Some factor of heredity is present, and possibly some nerve-tracts, along which abnormal energy has been very active in the past, may come into prominence again. An outline of some cases will bring out these facts:

First Case.—The superintendent of a factory, a man who had been temperate and sober for fifteen years, his conduct and character beyond all reproach, was engaged to be married, under circumstances of great promise. The day of the wedding the bride received a letter, warning her against him, saying that he was a secret drinker and a bad man otherwise. This she sent to him by the hand of her brother. After reading it, he showed all the signs of intoxication, and went to bed. The wedding was postponed, and he afterward asserted so positively his innocence that