Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/175

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sense that eventually there ceases to be any communication between the two, further than that implied by the supplying of nutriment to the reproductive cells by the somatic cells. The outcome of this argument is that, in the absence of communication, changes induced in the somatic cells, constituting the individual, can not influence the natures of the reproductive cells, and can not therefore be transmitted to posterity. Such is the theory. Now let us look at a few facts—some familiar, some unfamiliar.

His investigations led Pasteur to the positive conclusion that the silkworm diseases are inherited. The transmission from parent to offspring resulted, not through any contamination of the surface of the egg by the body of the parent while being deposited, but resulted from infection of the egg itself—intrusion of the parasitic organism. Generalized observations concerning the disease called pébrine enabled him to decide by inspection of the eggs which were infected and which were not: certain modifications of form distinguishing the diseased ones. More than this, the infection was proved by microscopical examination of the contents of the egg; in proof of which he quotes as follows from Dr. Carlo Vittadini:

"Il résulte de mes recherches sur les graines, à l'epoque où commence le développement du germe, que les corpuscles, une fois apparus dans l'œuf, augmentent graduellement en nombre, à mesure que l'embryon se développe; que, dans les derniers jours de l'incubation, l'œuf en est plein, au point de faire croire que la majeure partie des granules du jaune se sont transformés en corpuscules. "Une autre observation importante est que l'embryon aussi est souillé de corpuscules, et à un degré tel qu'on peut soupçonner que l'infection du jaune tire son origine du germe lui-même; en d'autres term es que le germe est primordialement infecté, et porte en lui-même ces corpuscules tout comme les vers adultes, frappés du même mal."[1]

Thus, then, the substance of the egg, and even its innermost vital part, is permeable by a parasite sufficiently large to be microscopically visible. It is also of course permeable by the invisible molecules of protein, out of which its living tissues are formed, and by absorption of which they subsequently grow. But, according to Weismann, it is not permeable by those invisible units of protoplasm out of which the vitally active tissues of the parent are constituted: units composed, as we must assume, of variously arranged molecules of protein. So that the big thing may pass, and the little thing may pass, but the intermediate thing may not pass!

A fact of kindred nature, unhappily more familiar, may be next brought in evidence. It concerns the transmission of a disease not unfrequent among those of unregulated lives. The high-

  1. Les Maladies des Vers à Soie, par L. Pasteur, i, 39.