Medicine: Inheriting Bad Health

Less common than come-and-go infectious diseases, but far more insidious and likely to cause lifelong handicaps, are the defects humans are born with. The majority of congenital defects, it is currently believed, come when something goes wrong in the womb—typically, cataracts in a child resulting from the fact that the mother had German measles (TIME, Aug. 1, 1960). The rest are hereditary, dating from the instant that a sperm and an ovum, one or both defective, join to make a defective cell. In the subdividing process that starts at once, every newly created cell...

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