Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/369

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355
THE HISTORY OF TWINS, ETC.

grow unlike through the development of natural characteristics which had lain dormant at first, or else they continue their lives, keeping time like two watches, hardly to be thrown out of accord except by some physical jar. Nature is far stronger than nurture within the limited range that I have been careful to assign to the latter.

The effect of illness, as shown by these replies, is great, and well deserves further consideration. It appears that the constitution of youth is not so elastic as we are apt to think, but that an attack, say of scarlet fever, leaves a permanent mark, easily to be measured by the present method of comparison. This recalls an impression made strongly on my mind several years ago by the sight of a few curves drawn by a mathematical friend. He took monthly measurements of the circumference of his children's heads during the first few years of their lives, and he laid down the successive measurements on the successive lines of a piece of ruled paper, by taking the edge of the paper as a base. He then joined the free ends of the lines, and so obtained a curve of growth. These curves had, on the whole, that regularity of sweep that might have been expected, but each of them showed occasional halts, like the landing-places on a long flight of stairs. The development had been arrested-by something, and was not made up for by after-growth. Now, on the same piece of paper my friend had also registered the various infantine illnesses of the children, and corresponding to each illness was one of these halts. There remained no doubt in my mind that, if these illnesses had been warded off, the development of the children would have been increased by almost the precise amount lost in these halts. In other words, the disease had drawn largely upon the capital, and not only on the income, of their constitutions. I hope these remarks may induce some men of science to repeat similar experiments on their children of the future. They may compress two years of a child's history on one side of a ruled half-sheet of foolscap paper if they cause each successive line to stand for a successive month, beginning from the birth of the child; and if they mark off the measurements by laying, not the 0-inch division of the tape against the edge of the pages, but, say, the 10-inch division—in order to economize space.

The steady and pitiless march of the hidden weaknesses in our constitutions, through illness to death, is painfully revealed by these histories of twins. We are too apt to look upon illness and death as capricious events, and there are some who ascribe them to the direct effect of supernatural interference, whereas the fact of the maladies of two twins being continually alike shows that illness and death are necessary incidents in a regular sequence of constitutional changes, beginning at birth, upon which external circumstances have, on the whole, very small effect. In cases where the maladies of the twins are continually alike, the clock of life moves regularly on, governed by internal mechanism. When the hand approaches the hour-mark,