Reporter at Large, The Mountain of Names
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      The noble houses of Europe have repeatedly intermarried, forming a political, as opposed to a geographic or a religious, isolate. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, for instance, were second cousins, but the houses of Aragon and Castile, to which they respectively belonged, had previously intermarried so often that the royal couple's cumulative coefficient of kinship was much higher than one-sixty-fourth. One of their daughters-Joan the Mad-was insane. Contrary to widely held belief, however, inbreeding has had nothing to do with the "royal hemophilia" that has so far afflicted nine male descendants of Queen Victoria, including the Czarevitch Alexis Romanoff and an uncle of the present King of Spain, the Prince of the Asturias, who hemorrhaged to death after a car accident in 1938. The disorder sprang from a genetic mutation that is believed to have occurred in the X chromosome of Queen Victoria's father, Edward, the Duke of Kent; it was inherited by one of her four sons and by two of her four daughters. Prince Edward was fifty-one when Victoria was conceived, and the germ cells of older men are more prone to some types of mutation. The execution of Czar Nicholas and his family and the untimely death of two afflicted Prussian princes have terminated Victoria's Hesse line, but the mutant gene may still be carried by some of her English and Spanish female descendants.
     Defective children of the European royalty and nobility were no doubt rarely seen in public. The British anthropologist Francis Galton wrote in the last century that "a large number" of victims of what he called "hereditary silliness" were kept out of sight by their families, although their existence was "well known to relatives and friends." One striking-though possibly apocryphal-case of sequestration is related in a book called "Royal Scotland," by the genealogist Sir lain Moncreiffe of that Ilk and the writer Jean Goodman. The first son of Lord Glamis is said to have been born, early in the last century, "in a hideous form with a massive body covered with matted black hair, tiny arms and legs, and a head sunk deep into his barrel chest." The authors continue, "Obviously such a creature could not inherit the title [the Earl of Strathmore] and he was kept in a secret room [in Glamis Castle, the setting of "Macbeth"] and exercised on the roofs at night. He was believed to have lived to be well over a hundred and died in the early part of this century. To keep the dreadful secret only four men at any one time were allowed to know of the Monster's existence. They were the Earl, the family lawyer, the agent to the estate, and the eldest son, who was shown the Monster, the rightful Earl, on the day that he came of age."
     Inbreeding levels are sensitive to political and technological change. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, for instance, after the Napoleonic code had abolished primogeniture in Continental Europe, first-cousin marriage increased in Italy as a means of keeping property in the family. But on the whole inbreeding has not been a problem in Catholic countries, because of the Church's promulgation of "forbidden degrees" of consanguinity. Since the end of the nineteenth century, with the diffusion of local populations brought about by the Industrial Revolution, there has been a decrease in consanguineous marriage.

     The world is becoming increasingly panmictic-a healthy development both medically and sociopolitically.
     "The human species is young, perhaps not more than 10,000 generations old, and the major geographical races diverged from each other about 1,500 generations ago, at most," the population geneticist Richard Lewontin writes in his book "Human Diversity." "If anything is clear about the direction of human evolution, it is that the early differentiation of people into local groups, while still very much a part of our biological diversity, is on the decline. The unifying forces of migration and of common selection through common environment and common culture are stronger than they have ever been." Most geneticists are in agreement that, as the science writer Guy Murchie has put it, "no human. . . can be less closely related to any other human than approximately fiftieth cousin, and most of us . .. are a lot closer.
     The family trees of all of us, of whatever origin or trait, must meet and merge into one genetic tree of all humanity by the time they have spread into our ancestors for about fifty generations." The "family of man," which has been posited by many religions and philosophies (it was a central concept of the Enlightenment, for instance), actually exists.
     All it takes for widely divergent populations to merge genealogically is migration by one person. "A single indirect genetic contact between Africa and Asia in a thousand years can make every African closer than fiftieth cousin to every Chinese," Murchie has observed. "Surprisingly, this may happen without any natives of either continent doing any particular traveling at all, but simply in consequence of the wanderings of nomads in intermediate territory." History can be seen, in other words, as a mosaic of billions of overlapping pedigrees. The kinship group to which we all belong extends indefinitely in every direction. Some genealogists have started to play with this notion. The new vogue in genealogy is horizontal genealogy. By charting the overlap in the pedigrees of recent American political figures, for instance, the genealogist William Addams Reitwiesner has discovered that the former White House aide Hamilton Jordan and former Florida Governor Reubin Askew are eighth cousins once removed; that former President Jimmy Carter and former President Richard Nixon are sixth cousins (both are descended from aNew Jersey Quaker named Richard Morris, who lived before the American Revolution); that Nixon and Vice-President George Bush are tenth cousins once removed; that Bush is a seventh cousin of Elliot Richardson, Attorney General in the Nixon Administration, and is also a kinsman of Ernest Hemingway and of the nineteenth -century plutocrat Jay Gould; and that California Senator Alan Cranston has in his constellation of known kin-through descent from a man named Robert Bullard, who lived in Watertown, Massachusetts, in the early seventeenth century-Queen Geraldine of Albania, Richard Henry Dana, Emily Dickinson, George Plimpton, the Dows of Dow Chemical, Julie Harris, and Margaret Mead.
     The extent of our kinship is brought home even more dramatically, however, by traditional, vertical genealogy. "It is virtually certain. . . that you are a direct descendant of Muhammad and every fertile predecessor of his, including Krishna, Confucius, Abraham, Buddha, Caesar, Ishmael and Judas Iscariot," Murchie writes. "Of course, you also must be descended from millions who have lived since Muhammad, inevitably including kings and criminals, but the earlier they lived the more surely you are their descendant." The political implications of this great kindred are quite exciting. If all of us could be made aware of our multiple interrelatedness, if the same sort of altruism that usually exists among close kin could prevail through the entire human population, if this vision of ourselves could somehow catch on, then many of the differences that have polarized various subpopulations from the beginning of human history-differences that are for the most part the result of adaptation to disparate climate, of genetic drift, and of cultural vagary would seem secondary. The problems we have with each other would. become, as it were, internal.
 
 

     HOW big is the human family?

     We know that close to five billion people are alive today, but how many have there been in the past? According to the most carefully reasoned estimates, between sixty-nine billion and a hundred and ten billion people have lived since the appearance of human beings. The figures are based on an exponential growth curve interpolated between "benchmark estimates," or key points at which there are data related to the size of the world's population; the disparity is the result of differences in estimated birth rates and life spans and in the date of origin for "humans." Although the
ascent of the curve is at first-and for many millennia-so gradual that it is largely lost in the thickness of the draftsman's pen, the final tally is significantly affected by when one decides to begin the curve. Creationists, who start the human race with the placing of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden six thousand years ago, and who believe that in about 2400 B.C. a worldwide flood killed off everybody then alive except Noah and his family, come up with a considerably lower figure for the total number of people ever-fifty-one billion. Most historical demographers, however, begin their
curves a million years ago. Erect hominids-the australopithecinesare thought to have lived as long as four million years ago; the genus Homo is perhaps two million years old; archaic Homo sapiens lived around three hundred thousand years ago; and our race, Homo sapiens sapiens, begins to appear in the fossil record only about a hundred thousand years ago. So the choice of a million years ago is something of a compromise. The biologist Edward S. Deevey, Jr., has estimated that between a million years ago and twentyfive thousand years ago a total of thirty-six billion Paleolithic hunter-gatherers lived, in generations averaging twenty-five years in length. Ten thousand years ago-the consensus date for the beginning of settled agriculture-the world's population was a little over five million. The figure is based on a study of the territorial requirements of contemporary huntergatherers and on an estimate of the amount of land available for human exploitation-an estimate based, in turn, on geological evidence of the extent of the ice caps and on a reconstruction of the prevailing climate and rainfall patterns. By the beginning of the Christian era, when most people had become village farmers or city dwellers, the population had risen to between two hundred million and four hundred million. This slightly more informed guess, the demographer Ansley J. Coale explains, is based on surviving information about censuses within the Roman Empire, on imperial Chinese records, on a "tenuous estimate" by historians of the population of India around then, and on a "crude allowance for the number of people in other regions."
     The growth rate of a population is the difference between its birth rate and its death rate, and, beginning about 1750, the start of the "modern era" (which represents only twotenths of one per cent of human history), a number of developments combined to reduce mortality in the West, thus causing comparatively unrestrained growth. By 1750, of course, there were much more extensive written records, and the world's population at that time can be estimated with twenty per cent accuracy to have been around eight hundred million. The curve, which for thousands of years has shown little more upward mobility than a straight horizontal line, now begins to rise steeply. "To begin with," Coale recently told me, "there was a more abundant and more regular supply of food, because of an extension of cultivation, particularly in America; because foods from the New World-potatoes and maizehelped to cause an agricultural revolution in Europe; and because transport improved. Water supplies were cleared up, and sanitary habits changed-people, including doctors, started to bathe and to wash their hands more regularly. By 1825, medical innovations, such as smallpox vaccine, had begun to have an effect. Doctors stopped healing their patients by bleeding and purging, and in the latter part of the nineteenth century germs were discovered and anesthetics were invented. Real curative medicine did not begin until after 1930, with chemotherapy and antibiotics. The reduction in mortality affected growth in two ways: by prolonging life, it led to a larger population from a given stream of births, and by allowing more women to survive to procreative age it enlarged the stream of births."
     By the late nineteenth century, between seventy-five and eighty-five per cent of the women in the industrialized countries were surviving to the mean childbearing age of twentyeight. (This is about the current proportion in many parts of the Third World.) Coale estimates that until 1750 the average woman, over the span of her childbearing years, had six offspring, with the male-female ratio of the children about even, but that only one of the three daughters survived to become a parent herself. The early deaths not only depress the annual growth curve but figure, more significantly, in the computation of the total number of people born. Since 1750, the growth rate of the world's population has risen from .56 per thousand to more than seventeen per thousand (with almost forty per thousand in prodigiously fertile Kenya), and the world's population now stands at about four billion seven hundred million people. Nearly a billion of these people were born after 1970, and between four and seven per cent 43 of all the people who have ever  lived are alive today. 
 
 

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