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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/191

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HEREDITY AND RACE-IMPROVEMENT.

is the best prophylactic against this fearful disease. Individuals predisposed to scrofula require pure air, substantial tonic diet, and an atmosphere like that on the sea-coast of Northwestern Europe. Those who are threatened with gout or gravel must oblige themselves to the strictest temperance and take abundant exercise. Regularity and uniformity of life are the rule for those predisposed to cancer. Persons who reckon epileptics among their ascendants require the utmost care. All their functions must be tranquillized; they must allow themselves no excesses; must avoid fatigue; must guard against emotional excitement—in a word, they must be always surrounded with tranquillizing influences. Those predisposed to insanity are to be treated in a similar manner, that is to say, with great gentleness; and their passions are to be stilled. The course of life best suited to them is one which does not call for much intellectual activity, and which holds out no visions of fame or fortune. Preventing or checking in the individuals themselves the development of disease-germs is, however, but a secondary consideration; the chief point is, to prevent the migration of these germs into new generations. But, to attain this result, we must not only multiply and facilitate marriages which shall be in conformity with hygienic and moral laws, we have furthermore to discourage alliances the fruits of which can only be of blighted constitution in body and soul. Physicians ought to use all their influence to prevent the intermarriage of persons evidently predisposed to the various forms of neurosis, to tubercle, scrofula, etc. When the ascendants of one of the parties are hereditarily of a morbid constitution, the physician should at least insist on the importance of having the other party perfectly healthy, possessed of great vigor, and, above all, of a temperament the reverse of that of his or her partner. In this way the danger of hereditary taint is diminished, though it were better not to incur such danger at all. But this is a point of so delicate a nature that we cannot dwell upon it here. We must, however, say something about consanguineous marriages, a subject which has given rise to much warm controversy during the past few years. Some physicians, and among them Broca and Bertillon, hold that races which are least mixed, which are purest, are better fitted than crossed races to withstand the causes of degeneracy. According to them, the evil consequences charged on consanguinity are the result of very different agencies, especially the hereditary affections of the ascendants. Trousseau and Boudin, on the other hand, say that marriages between individuals of the same stock oftentimes yield unhealthy fruits—lunatics and idiots. The balance would appear to have been struck in favor of the first opinion. It was but the other day, that Auguste Voisin, in making inquiries of the relatives of more than 1,500 patients in the Bicêtre and the Salpêtrière, found that in none of these cases could the disease be attributed to consanguinity. If the latter had been so infallible a cause of degeneracy,