Full text: Problems in eugenics

A. Marro.Biology and Eugenics.12 IT 
Amongst criminals my statistics have given me 46% of children of 
alcoholics, whilst amongst normal people the children of alcoholics only 
about 16%.* 
During the long years of practioe as cantonal physician all the children 
whom I have seen seized by convulsions had either an alcoholic father or 
mother, when both were not alcoholic. 
I have also wished to find out if other forms of acquired modifications 
in the character of the parents were transmitted to the children. 
In the natural course of life from infancy to youth, to maturity and old 
age, the human organism necessarily goes through different phases of de­ 
velopment, finding itself first of all in course of formation, arriving pro­ 
gressively at a complete development, while then ensues a period of de­ 
cadence during which it goes on declining and becomes less and less fit for 
further service. Now the generative activity of man, although it may fail 
at the first or the second age, includes, nevertheless, a somewhat extended 
period which commences at an epoch of immaturity or at least of incom­ 
plete maturity, and is notably prolonged into the period of decadence. It 
is natural that children born of the same parents at different phases of their 
organism should inherit the dispositions belonging to each of these. 
It was a fact already known to Aristotle himself that the extreme youth 
of the parents, especially of the mother, leaves to the children her inheritance- 
of imperfect development and of weakness, of a short stature and of 
mediocre constitution. 
Lucas writes that De la Fontaine, surgeon-in-chief during the last reign in 
Poland, attributed the extreme physical weakness of the Jews to premature 
marriages. The same fact can be verified in France. At the beginning of 
the last century, in the years 1812-13, the inexorable law of conscription- 
drove decimated families to marry their children before the proper age, 
and never have there been so many cases of rejection for weakness of con­ 
stitution as in the years 1833-34. 
Burdach found in the same reason the explanation of the inferiority which 
first-born children often present as regards intelligence and aptitude com­ 
pared to their brothers, t 
On the other hand, during old age, man goes on gradually losing, at the 
same time as his physical energy, a part of his moral energy, and the chil­ 
dren born of aged parents must bear the evil influence of the decadence 
which has already infected the organs of the parents. The Romans h'ad 
established by law that marriage was prohibited to a man over sixty. 
Buffon, in his Histoire Naturelle, on the subject of horses, writes that 
mares born of old stallions and of old mares show precocious signs of old 
age.* A. Marro, Carrateri dei deliquenti, p. 237. 
t Prosper Lucas, Traité philosohpique et physiologique de l’hérédité naturelle p. 439. 
Paris, 1850.

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