“Because, forsooth, animals and plants are observed to produce malformations of their species as well as human beings, Magendie and his school infer that the human malformations of an identical character are not at all due to maternal imagination, since the former are not. If physical causes produce physical effects in the subordinate kingdoms, the inference is that the same rule must hold with ourselves.
But an entirely original theory was broached by Professor Armor, of the Long Island Medical College, in the course of a discussion recently held in the Detroit Academy of Medicine. In opposition to the orthodox views which Dr. Fisher represents, Professor Armor says that malformations result from either one of two causes – 1, a deficiency of abnormal condition in the generative matter from which the foetus is developed, or 2, morbid influences acting on the foetus in utero.
He maintains that the generative matter represents in its composition every tissue, structure, and form, and that there may be such a transmission of acquired structural peculiarities as would make the generative matter incapable of producing a healthy and equally-developed offspring.
On the other hand, the generative matter may be perfect in itself, but being subjected to morbid influences during the process of gestation, the offspring will, of necessity, be monstrous. To be consistent, this theory must account for diploteratological cases (double-headed or double-membered monsters), which seem difficult.
We might, perhaps, admit that in defective generative matter, the head of the embryo might not be represented, or any other part of the body be deficient; but, it hardly seems as if there could be two, three, or more representatives of single member.
Again, if the generative matter have hereditary taint, it seems as if all the resulting progeny should be equally monstrous; whereas the fact is that in many cases the mother has given birth to a number of healthy children before the monster made its appearance, all being the progeny of one father.
Numerous cases of this kind are quoted by Dr. Fisher; among others he cites the case of Catherine Corcoran, a “very healthy woman, thirty years of age and who, previously to giving birth to this monster had born five well-formed children, no two of which were twins…it had a head at either extremity, two chests, with arms complete, two abdominal and two pelvic cavities united end to end, with four legs placed two at either side, where the union between the two occurred.”
Certain parts of the body, however, were not duplicated, and therefore this cannot be claimed as a case of the growing together of twins.”
H. P. Blavatsky