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i)E\AA K. HOWE, M.D.



University of California.



Wittf Compliments


fames ja. Barnarti.







Geo. H. Ellis Co., Printers, 272 Congress Street












Introduction i

Heredity ii

Prenatal Influences Other than Heredity, 56

Chapter I.

A DISTINGUISHED physician and
specialist in nervous diseases, a man un-
tainted by pessimism, but a keen observer and
student of men, recently declared that he could
think only with dread of the time when upon
the children of to-day must fall the responsibility
of directing our nation.

We who love the race and our fatherland can-
not lightly dismiss, as mere melancholy harping,
such opinions of such men. Patriotism urges
us to see to it that strong hands with sound
minds to direct them be made ready for the
burdens of the next generation. Do the many
pale, precocious, overtaxed, but undisciplined
children of to-day promise well for this ? Is
it enough that our hearts grow warm with en-
thusiastic love for Pinel, and Dorothea Dix, and


others who have humanized us to a point of ten-
derness in caring for the unfortunate insane ?
Theirs was a noble work ; but a still nobler
awaits him who shall teach us to prevent insanity,
and thus give to our country an insurance of
safety in sound, steady, well-balanced and dis-
ciplined minds.

I do not despair of accomplishing much for
the children of to-day, although it may be too
late to do the best for them. We have brill-
iancy enough among them, and a sad amount of
shrewdness and possibly incurable cleverness ;
but there is a menacing lack of power to cling
to a purpose through all discouragements, — to
grapple with unfavorable conditions and over-
come them. There is little of the " staying
power" which characterizes truly sane minds, —
those sturdy, unflinching minds that accept no
defeat, that never whine over lack of opportun-
ity, but force opportunities to attend them. In
quietness and in confidence is their strength,
and only such minds shall bring us to our desired


Lack of perseverance and shiftiness of will re-
sult from bad heredity, bad nutrition, or failure
in discipline. The last two conditions it is my
purpose to discuss in a later work. In the pres-
ent volume I shall present the important subjects
of Heredity and other prenatal influences.

If the children of to-day are not all that could
be desired, and if, indeed, we have caught many
of them several generations too late to make the
most of them, so much the more should we
hasten — with careful steps — to right the wrongs
of those yet unborn. \

How can this be done except by giving to our
utmost to all the people a knowledge of what
tends to shape the destinies of unborn babes ?
It is true that knowledge, of itself, is often
powerless to stay the tide of man's passions ;
and we often almost feel that it is useless to
teach people, because desire, rather than knowl-
edge, will shape their conduct. Yet it is knowl-
edge alone that places the stepping-stones by
which the few truly conscientious and earnest
people pass on to better conditions ; and these


in time lead others to follow. iVnd so, to all
who are eagerly hoping for a brighter future
for our race, like a star in a stormy night, will ap-
pear the growing demand of the people for a more
comprehensive knowledge of life. Everywhere
thoughtful women are asking to be taught some-
thing about the development of mankind, and of
the duties, responsibilities, and relations which
this new knowledge reveals. Everywhere we
find plain people asking for plain truths plainly
told, and for a ghmpse of the paths by which
pioneer minds have groped their way to those
truths. People not only want facts about life,
but also to know how to explain those facts.
This reasonable demand has too often been met
by superficial instruction, as if to satisfy children
clamoring for toys.

Scholars are, for the most part, too busy and
too absorbed to give in plain words to the unsci-
entific world the wished for knowledge. Indeed,
among scientists it is considered somewhat dis-
creditable for one of themselves to present his
views to the public before those views have

been pretty generally accepted in scientific circles.
A scientist must make no bid tor popularity.
He must keep an eve single to the honor
of the science he serves. But, since all knowl-
edge is in a transition stage, and facts are so
intermingled with theory that the two can be
put asunder only by doing frequent violence to
both, and since this condition promises to outlive
our own and many future generations, if the peo-
ple are to wait until all controversies are settled
before sharing in what has been achieved, then,
indeed, does their case seem hopeless.

Thev wish to know, and have a right to know ;
and, if thev are not taught by those who speak
with authority, they will continue to flock to the
advertising charlatans who have no scruples as to
the amount of chaff that goes with the few grains
of truth dispensed.

Of all seekers after knowledge, perhaps
mothers, by very reason of their motherhood,
have the largest right to share in the wisdom
of the wise, — to have freely opened to them the
store-houses of the garnered knowledge of the


ages, — even 1o have knowledge brought to them
and poured out in as full measure as they can

It is therefore to mothers, and to those who
hope to be mothers, and to all patriotic women
who feel a motherly interest in the race, that I
present here a few facts about heredity, — a sub-
ject that cannot fail to appeal to all true mother-
hood. While laying aside scientific language, I
shall try to hold fast to scientific truth. If by
these pages any are led to inquire further, to
observe more carefully, to think more deeply, to
act more guardedly, then my purpose will have
been achieved.

It is true that in the present state of our
knowledge a study of heredity demands a con-
sideration of much that has not proved its right
to be called more than theory. But theory is an
invaluable handmaiden to science ; and, so long
as it is kept thus subordinate, it aids much in
discovering important truths, and in fixing them
in mind ready for use on occasion. To follow
great men, even in their disagreements, as they

seek to explain the causes of recognized effects
is inspiring, and lends beauty and importance to
the facts we seek to understand. I have, there-
fore, not shunned theory in the following pages,
but have sought to distinguish it from fact in so
far as the two are separable.

To those who feel unwilling to study heredity
because of the dread of added responsibility
which greater knowledge entails, it is enough to
say that " without courage conscience is a sorry
guest " ; and invited ignorance never lessens, but
always augments, responsibility.

I have met some good people who cheerfully
threw off^ upon God all responsibility for their
unborn little ones, clinging to the consoling
belief that a just Creator would not handicap any
of his children by starting them in life burdened
with the frailties and sins of their ancestors. Yet
these same people are much concerned about
their children after birth, giving careful heed to
their surroundings, teaching, and guidance. Is
there no inconsistency in believing that a just
God can allow these latter conditions to aff^ect


the character, but that he would cease to be
just if he allowed before-birth conditions to do
the same ? Surely, the child is no more respon-
sible for the conditions in which he is placed
after birth than for his pre-natal condition.
Therefore, not until we feel exempt from duty
in a child's education and training can we logi-
cally rid ourselves of a recognition of duty
toward him in his pre-natal state.

In contrast to those who lightly cast off their
responsibilities for the unborn, are a few so
acutely sensitive to their duty in this direction
that they suffer a constant terror lest an unwary
touch, or unguarded step of theirs bend some
human twig to become a crooked tree. " Ah,"
sighed an anxious mother, " if my babies were
only monkeys, and it mattered little whether 1
spoiled them or not, how I should enjoy them !
But, when it is so easy to make them go wrong,
I live in constant fear of them." Such mothers
may take comfort in the fact that Nature is
sturdy and untiring in her efforts to undo the
mistakes of man. Clear her path ever so little,

and she tends to return to the normal. She is
never a merciless engine, dragging fatefully to
degeneration ; but a tender mother, unwearying
in her efforts to bring the race to perfection ;
though often forced to sacrifice individuals to her
great purpose. So, as Lowell effectively puts it,
" If God lets us play with the match-box of the
universe, he takes care that the social framework
be fire-proof. Therefore, we may take great
comfort in God."

The study of heredity cannot fail to make us
more tolerant, more sympathetic, more ready to
forgive. While it awakens us to our own re-
sponsibility, it shows us that we cannot measure
the responsibility or accountability of others. It
proves the wisdom of that greatest of all com-
mands : " Judge not, that ye be not judged."

Humbly, reverently, let us approach the sub-
ject of heredity, aspiring to the best knowledge,
yet not too austere in wisdom. Let us " look
deep into the tangled mysteries of things ;
reflise credence to the absurd, and allegiance
to arrogant authority; sufficiently conscious of


fallibility to be tolerant of all opinions ; with a
faith too wide for doctrine, and a benevolence
untrammelled by creed ; too wise to be wholly
poets, and yet too surely poets to be implacably



Chapter II.

ANEW-BORN babe was laid in the eager
arms of its mother. Her hungry eyes
searched the tranquilly inexpressive little face for
an elusive likeness. Disappointment hovered
near ; but she reflised it recognition, and smiled.

"It is like classical music," she said, her eyes
still intent on the babe.

" How ? " I asked.

" Its beauties must grow upon one."

" And then," she added, dropping an arch
look of apology upon the child, " some one has
said that classical music is better than it sounds ;
and I am sure that baby is better than he looks
or sounds, either."

" Yes," I said, " you will soon read in his face
a mighty declaration of independence, and hear
in his cry an emancipation proclamation."


" At present," she answered softly, " I prefer
the doxology ; and what I would read in this
little, queer, jumbled up countenance is an ances-
tral record." And, with pretty pride, and a reso-
lute feminine blindness for defects, she brooded
over the baby features, seeking a paternal like-

She seemed to find what she sought, hugged
the idea passionately, and was content.

In her expectant search for a parental likeness
in her babe, every woman declares her creed : I
believe in heredity, the mighty and inscrutable
power of like to produce like ; the inviolable
treasury of past achievements, and the keeper of
the golden key to expanding possibilities. I
believe in man, the triumphant product of ages,
who, in obedience to heredity, sums up the char-
acteristics of his race, displays the distinguishing
marks of his tribe, is stamped with many traits of
the family, bears the impress, in some degree, of
the peculiarities of his parents, and yet has risen
to a higher individuality, a more perfect self-
hood, than any other creature.


It seems superfluous to summon facts to sup-
port a creed which every one accepts. More im-
portant appears a study of the process by which
Nature achieves such amazing results. With
thrilling interest we follow her as, through fixed,
undeviating courses, she steadily pursues her pur-
poses. Tirelessly, step by step, she repeats her-
self in definite, uniform processes. Each man is
the product of such a process.

There are those who deny to heredity the
same power over the human as over other species.
These claim that mind and soul, and all that goes
to make up character, are exempt from the law
of heredity. But until psychology shall have
settled for us more definitely the relations of
brain and mind, we must treat them as inter-
dependent and inseparable. Since everywhere
we find them developing or failing in unison, we
must assume that what affects one affects the
other : and since the brain, as a part of the body,
must be subject to the laws that govern the body,
so mind must in its manifestations be subject to
the brain. If heredity can determine the shape


of a nose, the color of an eye, the structure of a
lung, it can also influence the form and mobility
of brain structure, and through this affect the
mind and character. That mind and body react
wonderfully upon each other no psychologist
doubts ; and that the mind (whatever the thing
may be that we thus designate) may exert a
powerful influence upon the brain, and through
the latter upon the whole body, is unquestioned.

The feeling that it partakes of irreverence even
to cast a longing glance over the hedge into the
field of scientific inquiry concerning the sacred
nature of man, has blinded us to much that
might have helped us toward divinity. I have
never found a divinely ordered " keep ofi^ the
grass " sign in any field of investigation into
Nature's methods of working. On every side
there are many unpenetrated fields, and no field
is fully explored. All are inviting ; and, wher-
ever we go we find abundant food for rever-
ence. If Science does not loudly proclaim a
God, she certainly has never denied him. She
humbly seeks to acquaint herself with law, and

does not presume to reveal to us the law-giver.
One might as well refuse to learn the double
rule of three, because it does not prove the exist-
ence of God, as to refuse to listen to Science for
such a reason.

Until we began to inquire of her humblest
creatures. Nature remained mute as to how she
accomplished her greatest work. From the low-
liest of all we have learned the alphabet of the
science of life.

With the aid of a microscope we may find
in a drop of stagnant water the teacher whose
primary lessons are indispensable to any ade-
quate understanding of the architecture of the
marvellous human temple. This teacher is but
a minute speck of living jelly, called protoplasm.
In one spot the structure of this jelly differs
somewhat from the surrounding protoplasm. We
call that spot the nucleus. The protoplasm with
its nucleus forms a cell. Within the nucleus of
the cell resides a life-giving power. Whence this
power originally came the humblest intellect knows
quite as well as the most learned. We sav that


this tiny, one-celled animal has life. Yet we
know not what life is. We only know how it
acts. We shall return to this little creature
later for other lessons of life's manifestations.
Here we are concerned to know what it can
teach us of reproduction and of the plan of archi-
tecture of animal bodies.

When this tiny animal has grown to full size, its
nucleus splits into two parts. The surrounding
protoplasm then also divides, half of it going to
each half of the split nucleus. Thus are formed
two separate and distinct individual cells, essen-
tially alike, and each resembling minutely the par-
ent cell. It is evident, then, that the parent cell
is not dead, but has only had its life multiplied
in the daughter cells. Neither of the daughter
cells is the parent, yet both were the parent. We
cannot say that their life began when they began
individual life. It is evident that their existence
reaches back as far as that of the parent, of
which each is a part. The two cells grow until
they reach maturity ; whereupon each divides,
after the manner which gave it its own birth, and


four new cells are formed, all equally partaking
of the life of the first. Still there has been no
death, only further multiplication of life. This
process may go on indefinitely, and each resulting
living cell is as much a part of the first one as if
that first one had been at once broken into a
million pieces, and each piece had grown into a
new animal.

Since the life of the first is in the life of each
successor, then, in so far as there is no known
limit to the number of progeny, that life is, so
far as our knowledge goes, potentially immortal ;
and, since each new individual is really but an old
one split in two, an ancestral likeness is inevitable.
The first lesson, then, from our humble teacher
is one of continuity of life and inheritance of
original traits.

It is evident that if from any cause a one-celled
animal becomes diflPerent from others, when it splits
into two its halves will also differ from halves
produced by the splitting of the others. For
instance, if one cell become larger and stronger by
reason of better feeding ; or if, by starving, the


growth be stunted ; or if by accident it be de-
formed ; the cells resulting from its division must
be correspondingly larger and stronger, or smaller
and weaker, or deformed, as the case may be.
Thus any acquired change will be handed down
to posterity. And this is our second lesson, —
the inheritance of acquired traits.

Before we can apply these lessons in the case
of animals built of more than one cell, we must
have a lesson on the architecture of such bodies.

Let us suppose that, when a one-celled animal
divides, the resulting pair, instead of separating
for an independent existence, remain side by side,
and fasten themselves together by a substance
which they manufacture. But they grow and
divide just as independent cells do, and become
four cells, which also remain fastened together.
Division continues until a large community of
united cells is formed.

If this community were arranged in a solid
block of cells, only those on the outside could
reach food, or be warned of approaching danger,
or cast off waste matter ; and these, therefore,


would be obliged to do most of the work of the
community, while those on the inside must either
die for lack of nourishment, or become paupers
upon their more fortunately placed neighbors.
To obviate such overtaxing of a part and pauper-
izing of the rest, the cells are arranged in the
form of a tube, into which can flow food-bearing
fluids, and out of which can be cast waste
matter. By means of this arrangement the out-
side cells are free to devote themselves to pro-
tecting the community and to acquainting it
with outside conditions, while cells within the
tube take up, dissolve, and digest the food that
flows through it, and pass the nourishment on
through tiny channels to parts of the commu-
nity otherwise employed. Difi^erent cells hav-
ing difi^erent work to do, each will assume a
shape and size best adapted to its particular
labor. Those which do a special kind of work
will generally be located together, and form what
we call an organ. For example, the heart, lungs,
kidneys, liver, etc., are but a union of cells sim-
ilar in kind and doing similar work. (To be


accurate, it must be stated that the organs and
tissues of the body consist of the products of
cells, as well as of the cells themselves, and
that often these products exceed the little work-
men in bulk.) The changes in cells to fit them
for different kinds of work we call differentiation.

Now our own bodies are built on the simple
plan of a community of differentiated cells (to-
gether with various substances manufactured by
them), arranged in the form of a tube, with mill-
ions of tiny channels for carrying food from the
central canal to every part of the body. But, as
we have a great many things to do, so we have a
great many different forms of cells and combina-
tions of cells, — many more than have the very
simply constructed animals, with their few tasks.
The health of our bodies is merely the proper
condition and working-power of each of this vast
community of individual cells : each one a living
thing, yet each dependent for life on all the

Every human being begins his career as a tiny
one-celled animal, — a mere egg-cell, a minute


speck of protoplasm with a nucleus, — hardly to
be distinguished from our little microscopic
friend of the stagnant pool. By dividing and
subdividing, this speck of protoplasm builds up
the human body. But, before it begins to divide
and develop, it must always unite with another
cell (also but a bit of protoplasm with a nucleus)
coming from the opposite sex. The two cells
coalesce, the two nuclei become one, and the
fertilized egg-cell thus formed is ready to begin
its creative work of building the body of a new
being. In it are wrapped up all the determining
factors, all the hereditary elements, of the new

The differentiation of cells and their union
and groupings into organs are never haphazard,
but invariably follow a precise method. Herein
lies another great miracle of life, another gulf be-
tween the merely physical and the vital forces,
which gulf Science has not bridged ; for, although
all cells of all species follow the same line of
development up to a certain point, there is some-
thing that fixes with unerring precision the exact


point where each species shall diverge from the
common path.

The human egg-cell, in developing, always
passes through stages of existence akin to those
of lower forms of life, — the fish stage, the
reptile stage, the monkey stage, — yet by no
possibility can the human egg ever produce a real
fish, a reptile, or a monkey, although in the full-
grown man are found many relics of these stages
of his existence. Beneath the skin of the neck
of the foetus one easily distinguishes the gill slit,
corresponding to the gills of the fish.

The unvarying tendency of any creature to
follow in development the footsteps of its pro-
genitor, until, passing on from stage to stage, it
reaches the final development of the species from
which it sprang, is what we call the law of he-

How comes it that two cells, starting out ap-
parently exactly alike, and following at first the
same pattern, should end so differently ? We can
only say that there must be in the one cell some-
thing that the other lacks. There must be folded


within the nucleus of the man-cell all the essen-
tials for the development of a monkey, and some-
thing in addition.

All creatures, then, metaphorically, start out
on the same road in the journey of development.
Some stop after going a very little way, and locate
on variously branching cross-roads. Many go
on with the crowd another day's journey, and
then branch off. Others go still further before
turning to follow diverging paths. And so the
multitude ever diminishes until at the end of
their common route man and monkey are left the
only companions ; and then they, too, part com-

In this journey of development the ultimate
destination of every cell is absolutely predeter-
mined by its own character. Should it halt at
any of the cross-roads where a lower species has
remained fixed, it at once perishes. It can never
diverge from the common road by any other

* A very common popular error is the belief that Darwin taught that man is
a descendant of the monkey. Darwin merely showed that somewhere in the
remote past man and monicey had a common ancestor, and that this ancestor
was less remote than any that unites us by ties of blood with other species.


pathway than that its ancestors chose. With them
it follows the allotted cross-road, with its closer
kin turns the home lane, little groups seek differ-
ent houses, and finally each individual finds his

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Online LibraryDelia E HoweMental health for the children of tomorrow → online text (page 1 of 5)