Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/207

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GENIUS AND HEREDITY. 195

ture examination, he does not believe that there is any special heredity for a particular science, but only admits a transmission of the elementary faculties in a condition of harmony and vigor agreeable to a sound mind. This precious heritage may be applied in several very different ways. A person who has received from his parents a certain degree and a favorable combination of the faculties of attention, memory, judgment, and will, is not destined to be condemned by a kind of fatal heritage to any special kind of work. Generally, a reflexive choice, or the rule of circumstances, rather than a special heredity, determines the use that is made of these faculties; its particular direction is decided by the medium and the family; and the success of the effort is determined by the energetic application of the will. A reservation should doubtless be made in the case of a determined taste for a certain career imposing itself upon a young man when he enters into life; but the facts that such tastes and inclinations are often opposed to paternal habits, and that they may be very different as between brothers, are proofs that they are not hereditary; they are often the products of an active imagination called forth by certain attractions, which it has forged for itself, or of notions suggested by some conversation or some entertaining lecture. Much room, then, is left for circumstances and liberty in the employment of the faculties which one has received. "The man endowed with marked traits of perseverance, attention, and judgment, with no considerable defect in his other faculties, will become a jurist, historian, scholar, chemist, geologist, or physician, according as his will is influenced by a host of circumstances. In each of these occupations he will advance in proportion to his strength, his zeal, and the concentration of his energy upon a single specialty. I have little faith in the necessity of innate and imperious vocations for particular objects. This is not to deny the influence of heredity, but to reduce it to something very general, compatible with the liberty of the individual, and susceptible of being inclined or modified according to ulterior influences, the action of which increases as the child becomes a man." Moreover, even when mental heredity seems to have been effectual, it may be regarded as working in the line of the grand categories of faculties, rather than of special faculties. Thus, it is not uncommon to find two brothers, or father and son, celebrated, one in the natural sciences, the other in historical and social sciences: as, for instance, the two Humboldts; Oersted and his brother the jurist; Hugo de Mohl, the botanist, and his brother Jules de Mohl, the Orientalist; Madame Necker, daughter of the geologist De Saussure; Ampère, scholar and literary man, son of a physicist. If there were a special heredity guiding to a particular science, these examples would be inexplicable, while they are quite natural under the supposition of a transmission of general faculties applicable to all sciences having analogous methods.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from the Revue des Deux Mondes.