Thursday, February 21, 2008


THE power of man over animal life, in producing whatever varieties of form he pleases, is enormously great. It would seem as though the physical structure of future generations was almost as plastic as clay, under the control of the breeder's will. It is my desire to show more pointedly than -- so far as I am aware -- has been attempted before, that mental qualities are equally under control.

A remarkable misapprehension appears to be current as to the fact of the transmission of talent by inheritance. It is commonly asserted that the children of eminent men are stupid; that, where great power of intellect seems to have been inherited, it has descended through the mother's side; and that one son commonly runs away with the talent of a whole family. My own inquiries have led me to a diametrically opposite conclusion. I find that talent is transmitted by inheritance in a very remarkable degree; that the mother has by no means the monopoly of its transmission; and that whole families of persons of talent are more common than those in which one member only is possessed of it. I justify my conclusions by the statistics I now proceed to adduce, which I believe are amply sufficient to command conviction. They are only a part of much material I have collected, for a future volume on this subject; all of which points in the same direction. I should be very grateful to any of my readers for information that may help me in my further inquiries.

In investigating the hereditary transmission of talent, we must ever bear in mind our ignorance of the laws which govern the inheritance even of physical features. We know to, a certainty that the latter exist, though we do not thoroughly understand their action. · The breeders of our domestic animals have discovered many rules by experience, and act upon them to a nicety. But we have not advanced, even to this limited extent, in respect to the human race. It has been nobody's business to study them; and the study is difficult for many reasons. Thus, only two generations are likely to be born during the life of any observer; clothing conceals shape; and each individual rarely marries more than once. Nevertheless, all analogy assures us that the physical features of man are equally transmissible with those of brutes. The resemblances between parent and offspring as they appear to a casual observer, are just as close in one case as in the other; and, therefore, as a nearer scrutiny has established strict laws of hereditary transmission in brutes, we have every reason for believing that the same could also be discovered in the case of man.

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