Full text: Problems in eugenics

2 2 2Section I.A. Marro. 
‘P'rom my youth, from what I have observed amongst my comrades, I 
‘have suspected that children of aged parents presented abnormal physical 
and psychical characters from their* birth, and as regards this matter I said 
years*; ago:* ‘ The tendency which, especially amongst the educated classes, 
leads men to contract marriage at a somewhat mature age, must have a notable 
influence upon the characters of the coming generations. The nutritive 
activity, the vigour of, the heart and of the muscles, the energy of the soul 
and the force of the spirit will tend by this fact to become weaker and 
weaker, so as to give place, on the one hand, to nutritive weakness, to 
-tendencies to congestions of the liver, to lithiasis, to the gouty diathesis, to 
impotence, etc.; and, on the other hand, to narrowness of mind, to the mania 
of ambition and to a cold egotism which, as we know, go on increasing from 
youth to old age/ ” 
The result of observation during my practice as cantonal physician has 
been that all the children affected by lithiasis whose families I knew 
were born of aged parents. 
There was wanting, however, a real study which should specify the rela­ 
tions between the age of parents and the hereditary qualities of the issue. 
In 1883, Ball & Regist published a comparative study upon the different 
ages attained by the members of both sexes, of families of neuropaths 
(epileptics and hysterics), of alcoholics, of lunatics, of paralytics, and 
of the insane, compared with normal individuals through four generations, 
that is to say, the grand-parents, the parents, the individuals submitted to 
an examination with their brothers and sisters, and finally the children 
and the nephews. From this study they concluded that life is longer 
amongst the ancestors of the insane than amongst those of normal people 
and that longevity is greatest amongst the ancestors of general paralytics 
and alcoholics, amongst whom it reaches notable proportions, whilst among 
neuropaths and the insane it approaches that of the normal. 
Nevertheless, Ball & Regis did not seek to draw from their studies the 
•conclusion which results from them indirectly, that is to say, that the parents 
-of these sick folk, having attained a very advanced age, had often begotten 
them at an age already mature, which tended to prove that the old age of 
parents creates a predisposition amongst children to lesions of the brain and 
•spinal cord and to tendencies to alcoholism. 
Profiting by an opportunity which was offered to me during the time 
when I was physician of the Maison de Justice, at Milan, I attempted to 
make a comparative examination of criminals and persons living in liberty 
in order to discover if there existed amongst one or the other class differences 
as regards the age of the parents at the time of generation. 
For this purpose I have examined 456 criminals and 1,765 normal 
individuals, divided into 771 new-born, 917 scholars, and 77 adults; besides, 
* A. Marro ; Guida all’arte della vita. P. 168. Torino, 1880. 
t Les familles des aliénés au point de vue biologique (Encéphale 1883).

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