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January 19, 1924


JAMA. 1924;82(3):211-212. doi:10.1001/jama.1924.02650290041015

Until after the middle of the nineteenth century, the belief in the inheritance of acquired characters was widespread and was continually being forced on the attention of the medical profession. Presently the German biologist Weismann identified the chromatin material which constitutes the chromosomes of the cell nucleus as the specific bearer of hereditary characters; and he emphasized a sharp distinction between the somatic cells which by division and differentiation build up the body and the germ cells destined toplay little part in the life of the individual bearing them but to be liberated and give rise to the next generation. The importance of this distinction, Woodruff1 writes, can hardly be overemphasized, for at once it makes clear that, for all practical purposes, the bodily characteristics of an individual are negligible from the standpoint of heredity, since the offspring are descendants not from the body cells but from the germ