Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/716

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698
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

CORRESPONDENCE.
 

MORE ABOUT MEN'S AND WOMEN'S BRAINS.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

SIR: In replying to a letter by me, published in the June number of this journal, Dr. William A. Hammond dispensed with the ordinary courtesy of discussion, and, at the same time, quite dexterously evaded the question at issue. He drops the "numerous, striking, and easily-detected sex differences in brain" which were "to be perceived at once" in comparing the two, and devotes himself to the one element of weight, which, so far as I know, no one has questioned, provided the relative body-weight is not allowed for between the sexes as it is in the tables where men alone are compared.[1]

Dr. Hammond quotes from various writers on anthropology to prove points with which my questions had nothing whatever to do. Some of his quotations are from authors whose theories are discredited by later investigations; others are simply unsupported assertions; while his display of dialectic pyrotechnics and personal innuendo are both interesting and amusing even to me, their victim, but they are certainly not argument.

The doctor acknowledges that he can not accept the offer I made him—to distinguish the male from the female brains of twenty specimens marked in cipher—thus corroborating my position and that of the able and unprejudiced anatomists and physicians who assured me that there exist no sufficient data upon which to make the bold (and to use the doctor's own words) "rough-and-tumble" assertions which have been made by him as to the "radical and easily , to be discovered characteristic sex differences in brains." To cover this, he makes a proposition to me, which is entirely aside from the question at issue, and in the face of the fact that I have never said that I could perform any of these wonderful feats.

I am quite willing to say that I can not. And since the science of anthropology is as yet in its infancy; since its various students disagree; and since within the past few months one of its cardinal principles has been found to be unsound, I am all the less willing to accept the sweeping statements of Dr. Hammond in regard to his being able to tell "at once the difference between a male and a female brain" by "numerous, easily-discovered, natural sex differences"; because of which differences he asserts both the incapacity of woman to learn and the danger of allowing her to attempt studies and occupations which he holds are unsuited to her lower brain organization.

It is just here that I join issue with him. And I maintain that no anatomist or physician has a right to assume these radical differences to exist, and, upon insufficient and conflicting data, make positive statements calculated to restrict woman in the use of whatever brain capacity she may have.

He finds woman's brain deficient m gray matter he says. Why deficient? Because man has more than she, and of course he is always assumed to be the highest type. But in this connection I find that Meynert says, "It" (the gray substance) "is more abundant in the brains of animals than in that of man, and indeed the proportion of gray substance increases the more remote the brain-type is from the human." The italics are mine.

"A nervous impulse takes, according to Helmholtz, about twelve times as long to travel through the gray substance as it does to be transmitted through the peripheral nerves."—Ibid.

Is this a reason why women are said to think more rapidly than men, or to have "intuitions" which, Dr. Hammond graciously says, "stand her in good stead for thought"?

The doctor once more uses as illustration the "well-known fact" that these characteristic brain differences are greater between the sexes, and more to woman's discredit, the higher we go in the scale of civilization.[2] This he uses again as evidence that woman has not utilized the opportunities which she has never been allowed to have. But here comes—a few weeks ago—the news that the assumption upon which this is based is all wrong.

The Terra del Fuegans' brains have been used to illustrate the low organization of brain possessed by the lower races of man. It was assumed that the anatomical differences between their brains and ours


  1. See Le Bon, "Schwalbe Neurologie."
    BODY-HEIGHT. BRAIN-WEIGHT.
    148-158 centimetres. 1,289 grammes.
    158-168 " 1.328 "
    168-178 " 1,373 "
    178-182 " 1,387 "
  2. This does not agree with Huschke and Le Bon. oven upon the old theory and estimates.

    The German average brain-weight is given as superior to the French, the former being 1,416 grammes and the latter 1,333. yet the estimated difference between the sexes is 222 grammes, for the French, and only 130 for the Germans.