This section is from the book "The Transmission Of Life. Counsels On The Nature And Hygiene Of The Masculine Function", by George H. Napheys. Also available from Amazon: The Transmission of Life.
" The child is father to the man," it is said. We are not concerned with this adage, but with the seemingly self-evident axiom that " the man is father to the child," in a deeper sense than in being his immediate ancestor. The father has not merely transmitted life to his offspring, but he has fixed upon him, to a certain extent, his mental and physical peculiarities, and even his moral nature. The child does not, of course, always exactly resemble its father. Indeed, the father's influence is less potent than the mother's; but it is a constant ever-present force in the child's being which often writes with " pen of adamant on tablet of brass." Let us then study, briefly though it may be, the laws and limitations of that heritage which, in the language of a distinguished physiologist, " has, in reality, more power over our constitution and character than all the influence from without, whether moral or physical."
We will first consider The Physical dualities we Inherit, particularly from our fathers. It is not difficult to prove that physical qualities are transmitted. We need not give instances of resemblances in form and feature between father and child, for they are matters of daily observation to every one. It is interesting to know that the male influence is noticeable even in plants, for through the pollen of flowers the tints and varieties may be modified at will.
The influence of the father is most marked in the exterior and extremities of the child, while the internal organs emanate from the mother. The father is most apt to determine the muscular organization, the mother the nervous system and temperament. This law is not an absolute one. The mule and hinny afford illustrations of its operation in the animal kingdom. The mule brays, while the hinny neighs. The mule derives its muscular structure from its sire, the ass, and, therefore, has his voice, for the voice is determined by the muscular organization of the part. The hinny, on the contrary, which has the muscular system of its sire, the horse, like him, neighs.
The influence of the father varies also with the sex of the child. The tendency seems to be for him to transmit to his daughters the conformation of the head and upper portions of the body. His sons are more prone to derive the form of these parts from the mother. Hence it happens, as we shall have occasion to remark presently in speaking of mental qualities which are inherited, that daughters partake more frequently than sons do of the intellectual peculiarities of the father.
Fathers not merely give the muscular organization to their offspring, but also the force and agility acquired by training. Thus, in ancient times, the athletes were found in families. In the case of animals celebrated racers are known as valuable breeders. Eclipse is said to have been the sire of 334 winners, who secured for their owners the amount of $800,000. King Herod, a descendant of Flying Childers, begot 497 winners. Unknown horses, which have unexpectedly won great races, have always been proved, upon the father's legacy.
examination, descendants, through many generations, of first rate ancestors.
Stature is often hereditary. The giant Chang, who was, until recently, on exhibition in London, is eight feet six inches in height. His father was nine feet high. The tall guards of Frederick William of Prussia were for fifty years quartered at Potsdam. That place is now remarkable for the numerous gigantic figures met in its streets. They are the offspring of the guards and the women of the city.
Peculiarities of the sense of taste are in many cases the effects of inheritance. In this manner Montaigne accounted for his inveterate dislike for physic and physicians. One of his ancestors when dangerously ill and assured that if he did not suffer himself to be treated, he would die, replied "Je suis doncques mort." Montaigne asserts that his dislike for medicines was directly traceable to this ancestor. Louis XIV. was excessively fond of the pleasures of the table. All his children were markedly voracious and gluttonous.
Longevity is a family trait. Sobriety, and a regard for the principles of hygiene, will not necessarily insure long life. These may maintain a condition of health and vigor, but length of life is largely determined by inheritance. Longevity is a talent. It may be improved like any other talent, or it may be wasted, but no amount of cultivation will create it. In spite of intemperance and exposure, a man who has this talent for long life may become a centenarian. A saddler, aged 113, whose grandfather died at 112, and his father at 113, was asked by Louis XIV. what he had done to attain to such length of days, he replied: "Sire, since I was 50, I have acted upon two principles: I have shut my heart and opened my wine cellar." Again, Golom. brewski, a Pole, notwithstanding the hardships of eighty years of service as a common soldier, the fatigues of thirty five campaigns under Napoleon, the sufferings of the terrible Russian campaign, the effects of five wounds, and the recklessness of a soldier's life, survived, and in 1846 was still living at the age of 102. But, it is to be observed, his father attained the age of 121, and his grandfather 130. A well-known literary character, M. Qnersonnieres, was living in 1842 in the full possession of all his powers. He said: "My family descends from Methuselah; we must be killed to die; my maternal grandfather was killed by accident at 125 years of age, and I," he added, smiling, "invite you to my burial in the next century." The experience of life insurance and annuity companies has made so apparent the influnce of heritage over longevity, that facts bearing upon this point in the family history have much weight in the calculations of the actuary.
Deformities are often transmitted from father to son through many generations. Edward Lambert, called the Porcupine man, is an illustration. He was first exhibited before the Royal Society, England, in the year 1731, at the age of fourteen. The whole surface of his body was covered with a peculiar horny or bristly growth, " looking and rustling like the bristles or quills of a hedgehog shorn off within an inch of the skin. When, twenty-six years after, he was again presented at the Royal Society, he was still covered by the same bristles. In the mean time he had had smallpox, followed by a temporary loss of his scaly covering, which was soon, however, renewed. He had been married, and had had six children, each of whom, at nine weeks of age, like himself, began to assume this rugged coat. Subsequently, it is on record that three grandsons of the original porcupine man, Edward Lambert, were shown in Germany with the cutaneous incrustation above described.
In this connection an interesting question arises: Are the results of accidents inheritable? As a rule, they are not Authentic instances are not wanting, which might readily be cited, showing that this rule has its exceptions. But the natural tendency is fortunately against the propagation of a physical injury. Thus, although the sins of the fathers are visited upon their children, their misfortunes are not.
For what purpose have we brought forward the above facts in regard to inheritance ? Merely because of their relation to the important question of prevention. It is this alone which concerns the father who reads these pages, influenced by one of the noblest of all human motives, the desire to benefit his offspring. Such a one wishes above all to know