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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/69

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59
THE PHENOMENA OF HEREDITY.


neva has found, in the ancestry of 243 epileptics, seven epileptics, 21 insane, and 21 individuals who had suffered from cerebro-spinal affections. Georget, from numerous observations made at the Salpêtrière, came to the conclusion that hysterical women have always near relations who are hysterical, epileptical, hypochondriac, or insane. Moreau calls attention to the "prodigious quantity" of morbid nervous conditions to be found in the ancestry of idiots and imbeciles. A single fact will give the means of judging of the varied and odd complications occurring in the hereditary transmission of neuroses. Dr. Morel attended four brothers belonging to one family. The grandfather of these children had died insane, their father had never been able to continue long at any thing, their uncle, a man of great intellect, and a distinguished physician, was noted for his eccentricities. Now, these four children, sprung from one stock, presented very different forms of physical disorder. One of them was a maniac, whose wild paroxysms recurred periodically; the disorder of the second was melancholy madness; he was reduced by his stupor to a merely automatic condition. The third was characterized by an extreme irascibility and suicidal disposition. The fourth manifested a strong liking for art, but he was of a timorous and suspecting nature.

Scrofula, cancer, tubercular consumption, syphilis, gout, arthritis, tetter, and, in general, all those chronic constitutional affections which are called diatheses or cachexias, are very often transmitted from parent to child. The heredity of these morbid states is almost as frequent and as well defined as that of the neuroses. "We may also affirm the heredity of skin-diseases, and especially of psoriasis, although in this case heredity is of rarer occurrence.

The evolution of these hereditary maladies is extremely interesting and dramatic. Planted in the children's system as germs, or as mere predispositions, they are sometimes destroyed, beyond the possibility of returning, by a multitude of favorable conditions and precautions: in other instances, they begin at once their fatal work of destruction; or, again, they lie hidden for years, reappearing at length, remorseless and terrible, under the influence of sundry exciting causes. Thus age, sex, temperament, practices, habits, hygiene, surrounding conditions, act a part in the development of hereditary morbid activities. Insanity is rare in childhood, and epilepsy most commonly makes its appearance in youth. Hysteria, scrofula, rachitism, and tubercle, appear in childhood and in youth, while gout, gravel, calculus, alopecia, and cancer, are hereditary states of the adult. Women are more liable to insanity, epilepsy, and hysteria, than men; but men, on the other hand, are far oftener than women attacked by gout, gravel, and calculus. The ner-

    day of marital cohabitation, and Amyot says that "drunkenness genders naught that is sound." Recent accurate observations have shown that the child that is conceived in a fit of alcoholic delirium, though the latter be only transitory, carries forever the ineffaceable marks of a more or less profound degeneracy.