Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/534

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

best pair of Andalusian fowls for any number of guineas. When he breeds from them he finds, to his disgust, that only about half their chickens, or slightly more, come blue at all, the rest being blacks or splashed whites. Indignantly, perhaps, he will complain to the vendor that he has been supplied with no selected breed, but worthless mongrels. In reply he may learn that beyond a doubt his birds come from blues only in the direct line for an indefinite number of generations, and that to throw blacks and splashed whites is the inalienable property of blue Andalusians. But now let him breed from his 'wasters,' and he will find that the extracted blacks are pure and give blacks only, that the splashed whites similarly give only whites or splashed whites—but if the two sorts of 'wasters' are crossed together blues only will result. Selection will never make the blues breed true; nor can this ever come to pass unless a blue be found whose germ-cells are bearers of the blue character—which may or may not be possible. If the selectionist reflect on this experience he will be led straight to the center of our problem. There will fall, as it were, scales from his eyes, and in a flash he will see the true meaning of fixation of type, variability and mutation, vaporous mysteries no more.

Owing to the unhappy subdivisions of our studies, such phenomena as these—constant companions of the breeder—come seldom within the purview of modern science, which, forced for a moment to contemplate them, expresses astonishment and relapses into indolent scepticism. It is in the hope that a little may be done to draw research back into these forgotten paths that I avail myself of this great opportunity of speaking to my colleagues with somewhat wider range of topic than is possible within the limits of a scientific paper. For I am convinced that the investigation of heredity by experimental methods offers the sole chance of progress with the fundamental problems of evolution.

In saying this I mean no disrespect to that study of the physiology of reproduction by histological means, which, largely through the stimulus of Weismann's speculations, has of late made such extraordinary advances. It needs no penetration to see that, by an exact knowledge of the processes of maturation and fertilization, a vigorous stock is being reared, upon which some day the experience of the breeder will be firmly grafted, to our mutual profit. We, who are engaged in experimental breeding, are watching with keenest interest the researches of Strasburger, Boveri, Wilson, Farmer and their many fellow-workers and associates in this difficult field, sure that in the near future we shall be operating in common. We know already that the experience of the breeder is in no way opposed to the facts of the histologist; but the point at which we shall unite will be found when it is possible to trace in the maturing germ an indication of some character afterwards recognizable in the resulting organism. Till then, in order to pursue directly the course of heredity and variation, it is evident that we must