Page:Descent of Man 1875.djvu/210

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194
Part I.
The Descent of Man.

states that the negro regiments recruited near the Soudan, and borrowed from the Viceroy of Egypt for the Mexican war, escaped the yellow fever almost equally with the negroes originally brought from various parts of Africa and accustomed to the climate of the West Indies. That acclimatisation plays a part, is shewn by the many cases in which negroes have become somewhat liable to tropical fevers, after having resided for some time in a colder climate.[1] The nature of the climate under which the white races have long resided likewise has some influence on them; for during the fearful epidemic of yellow fever in Demerara during 1837, Dr. Blair found that the death-rate of the immigrants was proportional to the latitude of the country whence they had come. With the negro the immunity, as far as it is the result of acclimatisation, implies exposure during a prodigious length of time; for the aborigines of tropical America who have resided there from time immemorial, are not exempt from yellow fever; and the Rev. H. B. Tristram states, that there are districts in nothern Africa which the native inhabitants are compelled annually to leave, though the negroes can remain with safety.

That the immunity of the negro is in any degree correlated with the colour of his skin is a mere conjecture: it may be correlated with some difference in his blood, nervous system, or other tissues. Nevertheless, from the facts above alluded to, and from some connection apparently existing between complexion and a tendency to consumption, the conjecture seemed to me not improbable. Consequently I endeavoured, with but little success,[2] to ascertain how far it holds good. The late Dr.

  1. Quatrefages, 'Unité de l'Espèce Humaine,' 1861, p. 205. Wartz, 'Introduct. to Anthropology,' translat., vol. i., 1863, p. 124. Livingstone gives analogous cases in his 'Travels'.
  2. In the spring of 1862 I obtained permission from the Director-General of the Medical department of the Army, to transmit to the surgeons of the various regiments on foreign service a blank table, with the following appended remarks, but I have received no returns. "As several well-marked cases have been recorded with our domestic animals of a relation between the colour of the dermal appendages and the constitution; and it being notorious that there is some limited degree of relation between the colour of the races of man and the climate inhabited by them; the following investigation seems worth consideration. Namely, whether there is any relation in Europeans between the colour of their hair, and their liability to the diseases of tropical countries. If the surgeons of the several regiments, when stationed in unhealthy tropical districts, would be so good as first to count, as a standard of comparison, how many men, in the force whence the sick are drawn, have dark and light-coloured hair, and hair of intermediate or doubtful tints; and if a similar account were kept by the same medical gentlemen,