Carel Brest van Kempen has extracted a few fascinating quotes from an old book he has. It’s titled Creative and Sexual Science, by a phrenologist and physiologist from 1870, and it contains some wonderful old examples of folk genetics.
President Bush would be pleased:
“Human and animal hybrids are denounced most terribly in the Bible; obviously because the mixing up of man with beast, or one beast species with another, deteriorates. Universal amalgamation would be disastrous.”
Although, unfortunately, he then goes on to use this as an argument against miscegenation.
Another lesson is that you shouldn’t deny pregnant women anything, or their longing will mark their child.
“A woman, some months before the birth of her child, longed for strawberries, which she could not obtain. Fearing that this might mark her child, and having heard that it would be marked where she then touched herself, she touched her hip. Before the child was born she predicted that it would have a mark resembling a strawberry, and be found on its hip, all of which proved to be true.”
Don’t let them see horrible things, either.
“Mrs. Lee, of London, Ont., saw Burly executed from her window; who, in swinging off, broke the rope, and fell with his face all black and blue from being choked. This horrid sight caused her to feel awfully; and her son, born three months afterwards, whenever anything occurs to excite his fears, becomes black and blue in the face, an instance of which the Author witnessed.”
And…uh-oh. Maybe George W. Bush won’t be so thrilled with this part.
“A child in Boston bears so striking a resemblance to a monkey, as to be observed by all. Its mother visited a menagerie while pregnant with it, when a monkey jumped on her shoulders.”
I think Carel needs to get busy and transcribe the whole thing onto the web. I know I’ll find these examples useful when I teach genetics this spring.