Full text: Problems in eugenics

120Section I.A. Marro. 
One of the disturbing causes to inheritance, in appearance at least, lies 
in the fact that the union of characters of the parents is not always homo­ 
geneous. Father and mother bring into the act of generation a number of 
aptitudes, some visible, some latent, which they themselves have received 
from their parents. If the union is such that the good germs can be added 
together, then the good qualities of the father and the mother will arrive 
at a degree of almost surprising development. If, on the other hand, the 
qualities of the mother are contrasted with those of the father, and vice 
versa, mediocre children may be born from two distinguished parents. 
The effects of this disturbing cause of inheritance, difficult to calculate, 
are insufficient to explain all the true or apparent anomalies. As a single 
example those cases would be inexplicable in which there supervenes a 
difference amounting sometimes to a disparity of characters amongst different 
children born of the same parents. Consequently one must admit other 
influences. Between two acts of generation there may take place and arise modifica­ 
tions in the organs of the parents which must be reflected upon the children 
who are born. 
We have a direct proof of the law in the anomalies found in children 
of parents who found themselves in anomalous conditions at the time of 
generation. In the physical order, Darwin cites a very luminous case : A bull on 
coming out of the stable had its tail cut off by the door shutting suddenly 
upon him. All the calves begotten by this bull were born without tails. 
The Brown-Sequard experiment, which I myself often repeated, of 
rendering guinea-pigs epileptic by the re-section of the sciatic nerve, is 
classical. The young ones which were born were themselves epileptic. 
An accidental condition, and sometimes even a temporary condition, 
of the parents, such as drunkenness, exercises a powerful influence upon 
generation. Science has henceforth put out of controversy the fact that not 
only the habitual alcoholism of one or of both parents, but also the simple 
condition of drunkenness at the moment of the act of generation, suffices 
to transmit degenerative characters to the children. 
The hereditary influence of alcoholism had not escaped the attention 
of the ancients. Mythological tradition hands down that the deformity 
of Vulcan was due to the condition of drunkenness of his father, Jupiter, 
at the moment when he begot him, and according to Plato* the Cartagenians 
forbade by a law the use of alcoholic liquors to married couples when they 
wished to procreate children, in order to avoid the disastrous effects trans­ 
mitted by inheritance. 
Morel attributes to the degenerative influence of alcoholism the complete 
abolition of the moral sense, the diminution of physical sensibility and the 
destruction of strength. 
* Platon. Des Lois. Livre V., p. 128, traduction de V. Conti-Paris, 1831.

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