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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/67

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57
THE PHENOMENA OF HEREDITY.

to be completely freed from these conditions. It is observed among those who lead the most laborious lives, as well as among those who take the greatest care of their health, and it seems to be connected with some inner power of vitality transmitted to individuals from their forefathers. So well known is this fact that, in England, life-assurance companies receive from their agents statements as to the longevity of the applicants' ancestors. In Turgot's family, the age of fifty-nine was very rarely exceeded, and the man who made that family illustrious had a presentiment, so soon as he had reached fifty, that the close of his life was not distant. Albeit he had all the appearances of good health and of great vigor of temperament, still from that time forward he held himself ready for death, and, in fact, did die at the age of fifty-three.

Heredity often transmits muscular strength and sundry other motor activities. In ancient times there were families of athletes, and the English have families of boxers. The recent researches of Mr. Galton, as to wrestlers and oarsmen, show that the winners in the contests in which these men engage generally belong to a few families in which agility and dexterity are hereditary. Suppleness and grace in dancing are also transmitted, as is shown in the case of the celebrated Vestris family. The same is to be said with regard to various peculiarities of voice, such as stammering, nasality, and lisping. There are several families who are naturally singers. Children born of babbling parents are themselves babblers by birthright. Dr. Lucas cites the case of a servant-maid whose loquacity knew no bounds. She would talk to people till they were ready to faint; but she would also talk to animals and to inanimate things. Even when she was quite alone she talked to herself aloud. She had to be discharged; "but," said she to her master, "I am not to blame; it all comes from my father. He had the same fault, and it drove my mother to distraction; and his father was just as I am."

The heredity of anomalies of organization has been demonstrated in several instances. One of the most singular of these is the case of Edward Lambert, whose whole body, except the face, the palms of the hands, and the soles of the feet, was covered with a sort of shell, consisting of horny excrescences. He was the father of six children, all of whom presented the same anomaly at the age of six weeks. The only one of them who lived transmitted the peculiarity to all his sons, and this transmission, passing from male to male, persisted through five generations. Mention is also made of the Colburn family, where the parents for four generations transmitted to the children what is called sexdigitism, i.e., hands and feet with six digits each. Albinism, halting, hare-lip, and other anomalies, are in like manner reproduced in the progeny. It has been observed that purely individual habits have a like tendency to repeat themselves. Girou de Buzareingues informs us that he knew a man who, when abed, was wont to lie on his back