Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/207

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
197
A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF AN INFANT.
A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF AN INFANT.[1]
By CHARLES DARWIN.
[Child-study has recently become a most active department of psychology. It is the serious pursuit of men of science and the fad of women's clubs; a late accession to the magazines devoted to it comes from Japan. In spite of this wide-spread zeal, few of the followers of child-study have ever heard of one of the most valuable contributions to it. And in spite of the eminence of the author, Darwin's observations on the mental growth of his child are practically unknown to most zoölogists and psychologists.
It is a witness to the breadth of Darwin's interests that he should have been among the few men who anticipated by a generation or more what is now so wide a movement in psychology. His retention of his notes for thirty-seven years before publishing them is thoroughly characteristic. In this respect there is a notable difference between Darwin and the present-day enthusiasts for child-study.]

M. TAINE'S very interesting account of the mental development of an infant, translated in the last number of Mind (p. 252), has led me to look over a diary which I kept thirty-seven years ago with respect to one of my own infants. I had excellent opportunities for close observation, and wrote down at once whatever was observed. My chief object was expression, and my notes were used in my book on this subject; but as I attended to some other points, my observations may possibly possess some little interest in comparison with those by M. Taine, and others which hereafter no doubt will be made. I feel sure, from what I have seen with my own infants, that the period of development of the several faculties will be found to differ considerably in different infants.

During the first seven days various reflex actions, namely sneezing, hickuping, yawning, stretching, and, of course, sucking and screaming, were well performed by my infant. On the seventh day, I touched the naked sole of his foot with a bit of paper, and he jerked it away, curling at the same time his toes, like a much older child when tickled. The perfection of these reflex movements shows that the extreme imperfection of the voluntary ones is not due to the state of the muscles or of the co-ordinating centers, but to that of the seat of the will. At this time, though so early, it seemed clear to me that a warm, soft hand applied to his face excited a wish to suck. This must be considered as a reflex or an instinctive action, for it is impossible to believe that

  1. Reprinted from Mind, July, 1877.