Breed the Lessons in the Bones

Cosmopolite, “Scientific Generation of Man,” Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, March 2, 1872

It appears to be the prevailing belief among writers on the scientific generation of man, that a system analogous in its nature to that practiced by the improvers of our domesticated animals and plants, namely, “breeding from the fittest,” etc., is absolutely essential to the successful improvement of the human race by means of scientific propagation; and hence, in the many respects wherein our present social system conflicts with the adoption of such a practice, it must undergo a radical change, or perhaps even perish altogether.  This is our extreme view of the case and although not entirely without a foundation in fact or to utility, yet it is by no means an absolute necessity, and as it is not the nature of man to fly socially from one extreme to another, without intermediate gradational changes, we must have a science of procreation based upon somewhat different principles, if we desire society to accept and apply it extensively without procrastinating for many generations. [. . .]

It is an established fact, and one bearing directly upon the formation of this science, that acquired peculiarities and altered characteristics are transmissible from parent to offspring.  In other words, that the constitution of progeny partake of the temporary condition of the parental system at the period of conception or gestation.  That is, should the parents happen at this momentous time to be unusually strong and healthy, the offspring will, as a rule, be their superior; for its constitution will compare favorably with that of the parents in their best condition, while it will be much superior to theirs in its ordinary state.  However, should the parents at this time be unusually weak, or sickly, the child is almost certain to be their inferior.  Thus we perceive that persons should prepare themselves for the performance of the parental function as carefully as boatmen do for the race, or prize fighters for the ring: for mental or physical qualities or organs, which have been improved by judicious exercise or careful habits, are transmissible to offspring in the improved condition.  Many examples in proof of this could be adduced, would space permit.

The subtile and mysterious, though powerful influence of the maternal mind or “imagination” upon the plastic nature of the unborn child is no less important than it is remarkable.  That varied impressions made upon the mother’s mind are capable of being photographed, as it were, upon the brain or body of the child in utero, we have the authority of the most distinguished physiologists and physicians of the present day as well as the past, for believing.  It has been the common belief of mankind since the days of Hippocrates and Galen, and doubtless much earlier.  This influence operates beneficially as well as injuriously.  Genius on the one hand, and idiocy on the other, has been the fruit of it.  There is little doubt that many of the brightest lights which have illuminated the intellectual world derived much of their natural greatness from the prenatal influence of maternal thoughts.  Or to speak more plainly, they were partially educated before birth to fill the sphere subsequently occupied by them.  Now the relation which this important fact holds to scientific propagation is this: that the mother can voluntarily stamp upon her unborn babe the impress of greatness! she has the power to educate her child so thoroughly as to breed the lessons in its bones. [. . .]


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