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Darwinism in the Nursery

An ingenious doctor, Robinson byname, contributes to the Nineteenth Century tbe result of a series of experiments which be has conducted upon children of a month old, or )ounger. Starting from the Darwinian theory of oar Simian origin, he arrived at the conclusion that babies newlyborn would probably show some trace cf '.he extraordinary power possessed by little tpea in clinging to their mothers. His mind was moved in this direction by com* ing upon Bret Harte's phrase in tbe ' Lack of Roaring Camp,' in which tbe nuwlyborn babe* 'Lock' is said to have 'wrestled' with Mr Kentuck's finger. A discussion arose as to whether a new-born babe could wrestle with a human finger, and Dr. Robinson determined to pat the matter to a practical teat. He therefore sobjeoted sixty infants to the test of seeing how iong they could bang to a walking-etick, and the result was very extraordinary. To nang by tbe band to a bar is an exercise which a person unaccustomed togymaetioi will find too severe a test of his strength, but these little onen, gome of tbem newly. > >rn. riling by their bauds for a couple of minutes :— la tveiy instance, with only two excepione, tbe child was abie to ut>ng on to the ringer or email Btick three-quarters of an id h in diameter by us handb, like an aerooat rrom a horizontal bar, aad sustain tbe whole weight or its body for at least ten seconds. In twelve cases, iu infants under an hour old, half a minute passed before he grasp relaxed, and in three or four nearly a minute. When about four days > d I found thai the strength oad increased, and that nearly all, when tried at this age, vould sustain their weight for half a minute. At about a fortnight or tbieu wot-k* after birth tbe iaculty appeared to have attained its maximnm, for several at his period succeeded in hanging for over a minute acd a half, two lor just over two minutes, and one infant of three weeks old for two minutes thirty-five seconds ! As, however, in a well-nourished ■hild there is a rapid accumulation of fat after the first fortnight, the apparently :iamii&hed strength subsequently may fesult partly from the increased disproportion of the weight of the body and tbe moscular strength of the arms, and partly from negleut to cultivate this curious endowment. Id one instance in which the performer had less than oae hoar's experince of lie, be bang by bo b hands to my forefinger for ten Beconrts, and then feliberuiely lit go with his right hand (as f to seek a better hold) aad maintained is position tor five seconds more by tbe left hand only. A cuiijus point ib that in many cases no sign of distress is evinced, and no cry is uttered until the gruptxgni to give way. In order to satisfy some sceptical friends, I had a series of photographs taken of infants olingirlg to a finger or to a walking stick, acd these show the position adopted excellently. Invariably the thighs are bent nearly at right angles to the body, and in no case did tbe lower limbs hang down and take the altitude of the erect position. This attitude and the disproportionately large development of the arms compared with the legs, give the photographs a striking resemblance to a well-known pic tare of the celebrated chimpanzee ' Sally' at the Zoological Gardens.

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Darwinism in the Nursery Southland Times, Issue 11951, 23 January 1892

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