Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/741

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

OCTOBER, 1892.


 

AMERICAN CHILDHOOD FROM A MEDICAL STANDPOINT.
By HENRY LING TAYLOR, M. D.

A GOOD deal has been said and written about our national temperament and physique, and it is doubtless true that the various stocks of the Old World, transplanted to our soil and subjected to new conditions of life, have felt the molding influences of changed surroundings. The human organism is preeminent in its marvelous adaptability to the most varied conditions of life. It has complex mechanisms which convey, store up, modify, and discharge the showers of impressions constantly received through nerve-endings in the skin, membranes, and tissues, as well as through the organs of special sense. We recognize that different individuals and races react somewhat differently to stimuli; they have inherited or acquired special characteristics of mind and body, largely due to habits evoked by special surroundings and ingrained by frequent repetition, whether in themselves or in their ancestors. If inherited bias counts for very much in molding the organism, this is equally true of impressions frequently repeated, or the steady push of constantly acting, though it may be scarcely noticed, forces.

Conspicuous factors in modern life are the extreme specialization of pursuits and occupations tending to narrow and restrict experience, and the herding together of dense masses of population in large cities, toward which the more venturesome and ambitious individuals tend to gravitate, and where larger opportunities are provided, only at the cost of more strenuous competition, and in many respects less favorable hygienic conditions. Success is paid for, both directly and remotely, in pounds of flesh.