Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/457

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

the nuclei of the daughter cells. As the same process seems to hold for all the later divisions of the cleavage-cells whose products are destined to be the various tissue elements of the adult body, it follows that all tissue-cells would contain chromatin determinants derived equally from the male and female parents. As of course only the germ-cells of an adult organism pass on to form later generations, and as their content of chromatin is derived not from the sister-organs of the body but from the original fertilized egg, there is a direct stream of the germ-plasm which flows continuously from germ-cell to germ-cell through succeeding generations. This stream, be it noted, does not flow circuitously from egg to adult and then to new germ-cells, but it is direct and continuous, and apparently it can not pick up any of the body-changes of an acquired nature; indeed, it is doubtful whether such changes can reach the germ-cells at all, for the path is not traversed in that retrograde direction.

It must be clear, I am sure, that this theory supplements natural selection, as it describes the physical basis of inheritance, it demonstrates the efficiency of congenital or germ-plasmal factors of variation in contrast with the Lamarckian factors, and finally in the way that in the view of Weismann it accounts for the origin of variations as the result of the commingling of two differing parental streams of germplasm.

At first, for many reasons, Weismann's theories did not meet with general acceptance, but during recent years there has been a marked return to many of his positions, mainly as the result of further cytological discoveries, and of the formulation of Mendel's law and of De Vries's mutation theory. The first-named law was propounded by Gregor Mendel on the basis of extensive experiments upon plants conducted during many years, from 1860 on, in the obscurity of his monastery garden at Altbr├╝nn, in Germany. It was rescued from oblivion by De Vries who found it buried in a mass of literature and brought it to light when he published his renowned mutation theory in 1901. Mendelian phenomena of inheritance, confirmed and extended by numerous workers with plants and animals, prove that in many cases portions of streams of germ-plasm that combine to form the hereditary content of organisms may retain their individuality during embryonic and later development, and that they may emerge in their original purity when the germ-cells destined to form a later generation undergo the preparatory processes called maturation. They demonstrate also the apparent chance nature of the phenomena of inheritance. I think the most striking and significant result in this field is the proof that a particular chromosome or chromatin mass determines a particular character of an adult organism, which is quite a different matter from the reference of all the hereditary characters to all of the chro-