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The term "Pre-Natal" of course means "before birth," and Pre-Natal
Influences are those influences exerted upon the child before its birth
into the world. The students of Eugenics are vitally interested in the
subject of Pre-Natal Influences, as they recognize that therein is to be
found the secret of much which will work along the line of "better
offspring," and general race-betterment.
Pre-Natal Influences (as the term is used in the present consideration
of the subject) may be considered as manifesting in three phases, as
(1) The influence of the physical, mental, and moral "family
characteristics" of the parents, transmitted to the child along the
lines of heredity.
(2) The influence of the acquired personal characteristics of the
parents (particularly the acquired characteristics which are especially
active at and just previous to the time of actual conception),
transmitted to the child along the lines of heredity.
(3) The influence of "maternal impressions" (after conception, and
during the period of gestation or pregnancy) transmitted to the child
physiologically and psychologically.
I shall now ask you to proceed with me to a consideration of the various
phases of Pre-Natal Influences coming under the above name three general
classes, and the principal factors involved therein.
Heredity in General.
By "heredity" is meant "the tendency which there is in each animal or
plant, in all essential characters, to resemble its parents"; or "the
hereditary transmission of physical or psychical characteristics of
parents to their offspring."
There is a great disagreement among the authorities as to how far the
principle of heredity really extends, and the real causes of heredity
are in dispute. In the present consideration we shall, of course, pass
over the technical phases of the subject, and shall touch only upon the
general features and principles involved.
Shute, in his work entitled "Organic Evolution," says: "That an
offspring always inherits from its parents many of their characteristics
is well known; that it always varies, more or less, from them, is also
equally well known. Heredity and variation are twin forces that play
upon every creature, holding it rigidly true to the parental type or
compelling more or less divergence therefrom, according to the strength
of the one or other power; so that every creature is the resultant of
the activities of these two great parallel forces. Variation is
co-extensive with heredity, and every living creature gives evidence of
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