What is the belief about the seventh son of a seventh son?

May 30, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Science

It was once widely believed that the seventh son of a seventh son (or child or either sex as some supposed) was endowed with notable talent and supernatural powers.

According to a belief that persisted through the Middle Ages, the seventh son of a seventh son is endowed with the power not only of curing diseases and disorders of all kinds by the laying on of hands but also of practicing magic and foreseeing future events. Even as late as the nineteenth century many people still believed that the seventh son of a seventh son was a born physician and possessed intuitive knowledge of the healing art.

The natural gifts of such a person were supposed by some to be more effective in medicine than the professional training of an ordinary doctor. Seven was regarded as a sacred and magical number among many ancient peoples, particularly the Hebrews, Assyrians and Arabians. In the Bible seven frequently occurs as a number with a special significance.

The ancient belief about the seventh son of a seventh son may have a slight foundation in fact. Some students of eugenics are of the opinion that the younger children of an unusually intelligent man are likely to inherit more of their parent’s mentality than his earlier children are.

This is based on the theory that a man of unusual intelligence generally continues to develop mentally until late in life and his older children have a tendency to inherit only what mental qualities the parent possessed when they were conceived, while the children born later have a tendency to inherit their father’s acquired mentality. Assuming this theory to be correct, in cases where a man marries young the difference in the mental qualities transmitted to the first children and to those born eight or ten years later might be considerable.

The lives of great men and women are cited to support the theory that younger children have “more brains” than their older brothers and sisters and that the older the father is when the child is born, the more intelligent it is likely to be. It is true that a remarkably high percentage of famous men and women were not the oldest children in the family. But it is doubtful whether the facts will bear out the theory of the inheritance of “acquired traits.” Most authorities believe that the order of birth is not an important factor in heredity.

In many of the cases cited to support the theory only the father is taken into consideration. The fact that more than one woman may have borne him children is ignored.

Difference in environment and home life may account for the large percentage of successful younger sons and daughters compared with older ones. Later arrivals in a family often have the advantages of more experienced parents as well as of the help and training of older brothers and sisters.

In his Autobiography Benjamin Franklin says he was the youngest son of the youngest son for five generations in the paternal line. He was the fifteenth child of his father’s seventeen children by two marriages and the eighth child of his mother’s ten children. His parents named him Benjamin, after the youngest of the twelve sons of Jacob in the Bible, because they expected him to be the last and youngest, but they missed the mark by two girls.


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