Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/176

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est authority concerning this disease, in its inherited form, is Mr. Jonathan Hutchinson; and the following are extracts from a letter I have received from him, and which I publish with his assent:

"I do not think that there can be any reasonable doubt that a very large majority of those who suffer from inherited syphilis take the taint from the male parent. . . . It is the rule when a man marries who has no remaining local lesion, but in whom the taint is not eradicated, for his wife to remain apparently well, while her child may suffer. No doubt the child infects its mother's blood, but this does not usually evoke any obvious symptoms of syphilis. . . . I am sure I have seen hundreds of syphilitic infants whose mothers had not, so far as I could ascertain, ever displayed a single symptom."

See, then, to what we are committed if we accept Weismann's hypothesis. We must conclude that, whereas the reproductive cell may be effectually invaded by an abnormal living element in the parental organism, those normal living elements which constitute the vital protoplasm of the parental organism, can not evade it. Or if it be admitted that both intrude, then the implication is that, whereas the abnormal element can so modify the development as to cause changes of structure (as of the teeth), the normal element can cause no changes of structure![1]

We pass now to evidence not much known in the world at large, but widely known in the biological world, though known in so incomplete a manner as to be undervalued in it. Indeed, when I name it probably many will vent a mental pooh-pooh. The fact to which I refer is one of which record is preserved in the museum of the College of Surgeons, in the shape of paintings of a foal borne by a mare not quite thoroughbred, to a sire which was thoroughbred—a foal which bears the markings of the quagga. The history of this remarkable foal is given by the Earl of Morton, F. R. S., in a letter to the President of the Royal Society (read November 23, 1820). In it he states that wishing to domes-

  1. Curiously enough, Weismann refers to, and recognizes, syphilitic infection of the reproductive cells. Dealing with Brown-Séquard's cases of inherited epilepsy (concerning which, let me say, that I do not commit myself to any derived conclusions), he says: "In the case of epilepsy, at any rate, it is easy to imagine [many of Weismann's arguments are based on things 'it is easy to imagine'] that the passage of some specific organism through the reproductive cells may take place, as in the case of syphilis" (p. 82). Here is a sample of his reasoning. It is well known that epilepsy is frequently caused by some peripheral irritation (even by the lodging of a small foreign body under the skin), and that, among peripheral irritations causing it, imperfect healing is one. Yet though, in Brown-Séquard's cases, a peripheral irritation caused in the parent by local injury was the apparent origin, Weismann chooses gratuitously to assume that the progeny were infected by "some specific organism," which produced the epilepsy! And then, though the epileptic virus, like the syphilitic virus, makes itself at home in the egg, the parental protoplasm is not admitted!