Full text: Problems in eugenics

F. W. Mott.Medicine and Eugenics.409 
usually deficient in both, but their deficiency in energy, physical and 
mental, is largely due to an inborn deficiency, but not always, or alto­ 
gether, for owing to their low wage-earning capacity, the environmental 
conditions are correspondingly poor, especially is this the case with the 
denizens of the one-roomed tenements of our great cities. Bad sanitation, 
insufficient food, air and sunlight, alcoholism, syphilis, tuberculosis, and 
infectious diseases all conspire together to sap the vital energy of the un­ 
employed, the casual labourer, the women, especially mothers, and the 
children. By no means all these people are of the eugenically unfit; many 
by improvement of their environment may have that restoration of vital 
energy which is essential for will power and the exercise of an inborn 
sagacity which chance, opportunity, or ill fortune has denied them. In 
proof of this you have only to visit such schools as Shenfield, or even 
Barnardo’s Homes, to see that environment plays a very important part in 
the development of energy, sagacity, and character. You cannot make 
good material out of bad raw material, but fairly good material or even 
good material may be spoiled by a bad environment. Even an inborn virtue 
may, by evil surroundings, become the source of the worst vices. 
The Effects of Poisons, e.g., Alcohol, Syphilis, and Tuberculosis, upon the 
Germ-plasm. 
An important racial question is this : Do poisons, such as syphilis, alcohol, 
and tuberculosis, diminish the vital energy of the male and female germ 
prior to conjugation and cause pathological variations? 
It is a known fact that toxins weaken cells, and therefore why not 
germ-cells? For although the sexual cells are segregated in the body, 
they are of the body and nourished by the same blood and lympth, and 
there is consequently reason for supposing that these most potent and pre­ 
valent poisons, alcohol, syphilis, and tuberculosis, may, without killing the 
germ-cells diminish their specific vital energy and thus lead to various patho­ 
logical conditions of the body, and especially of the nervous system. 
There can be no doubt that syphilis of the parents may lead to infantilism 
in the offspring evidenced by arrest of development of the secondary sexual 
characters. If syphilis can produce arrest of development of the reproduc­ 
tive organs, there is no reason why it should not lead to arrest of develop­ 
ment of the brain, and if syphilis of the parent can produce an arrest of 
development of the sexual organs in the offspring so that there is sterility, 
there is no reason why the specific energy of the germ-cells should not be 
affected without actually destroying them. It is an established fact that if 
congenital syphilis were not so fatal to infant life, the number of people 
suffering from paralysis of various kinds and insanity from this cause would 
be appalling. A blood test tends to show that syphilis is the cause of a larger 
number of idiots and imbeciles than was formerly believed. Acquired 
syphilis, and in rare cases congenital syphilis, are now acknowledged to be
	        

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