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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/789

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THE ART OF PROLONGING LIFE.

one fourth of our population attains the former age, and that only about fifteen in one hundred thousand become centenarians. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the causes of premature mortality, but the conditions favorable to longevity, and the causes to which length of days has been assigned, are closely connected with its subject.

A capability of attaining old age is very often handed down from one generation to another, and heredity is probably the most powerful factor in connection with longevity. A necessary condition of reaching advanced age is the possession of sound bodily organs, and such an endowment is eminently capable of transmission. Instances of longevity characterizing several generations are frequently brought to notice. A recent and most interesting example of transmitted longevity is that of the veteran guardian of the public health. Sir Edwin Chadwick, who was entertained at a public dinner a few weeks ago on the occasion of his reaching his ninetieth year. He informed his entertainers that his father died at the age of eighty-four, his grandfather at ninety-five, and that two more remote ancestors were centenarians.

It is difficult to estimate the influence of other contingencies which affect longevity. With regard to sex, Hufeland's opinion was that women were more likely than men to become old, but that instances of extreme longevity were more frequent among men. This opinion is to some extent borne out by Dr. Humphry's statistics: of his fifty-two centenarians, thirty-six were women. Marriage would appear to be conducive to longevity. A well-known French savant, Dr. Bertillon, states that a bachelor of twenty-five is not a better life than a married man of forty-five, and he attributes the difference in favor of married people to the fact that they take more care of themselves, and lead more regular lives than those who have no such tie. It must, however, be remembered that the mere fact of marrying indicates superior vitality and vigor, and the ranks of the unmarried are largely filled by the physically unfit.

In considering occupations as they are likely to affect longevity, those which obviously tend to shorten life need not be considered. With respect to the learned professions, it would appear that among the clergy the average of life is beyond that of any similar class. It is improbable that this average will be maintained for the future; the duties and anxieties imposed upon the clergy of the present generation place them in a very different position from that of their predecessors. Among lawyers there have been several eminent judges who attained a great age, and the rank and file of the profession are also characterized by a decided tendency to longevity. The medical profession supplies but few instances of extreme old age, and the average duration