A few years later in this XVIIth Century, thanks to the microscope which is a recent invention, a young German doctor, Louis de Ham, discovers that a drop of sperm was in fact

“an ocean where an innumerable multitude of little fishes were swimming, in a thousand different directions”.

These little fishes immediately suscitate an infatuation which is even more considerable.  Exactly what are they…  animals?  Probably!  But what sort of animals?  Fishes, tadpoles, toads?  Let us say “animalcules”, decides the scientific world.  But most importantly, it is again the man who is at the origin of life.

So fecundity, which that laughable ovist thesis had attributed to females, is returned to the males, gloats Maupertuis, the great French mathematician.

But are these animalcules miniature humans and do they have sexes?  Of course they do!  It is thought that little male and female fishes can be distinguished.  They are incredibly numerous and the adults have a tail while the little ones do not.  There is a rut season for the spermatozoa, during which they mate.  The female spermatozoa soon give birth…

Their way of life is not very amiable.  They love to fight and if the one who survives is seriously wounded, a monstrous child will be born.

It must also be noted that the little male fishes are to be found in the right bourse, the little female fishes being in the left bourse.  Therefore, in the man, as in the woman, the left testicle – the left ovary in the woman – gives females.  To be sure of having boys, which is infinitely preferable, it is enough, advises Doctor Michel Procope-Couteau, the author of a remarkable Art de faire des garcons, to cut off the left testicle.  But can any volunteers be found?  He suggests:

“To prove that this essential thesis is correct, let us start by cutting the testicles and the ovaries of people who have been condemned to death and marry these half-eunuchs together.”

This strange doctor does not appear to have found the human material for which he was asking, but his thesis flourishes…

Doctor Tissot found a way of having only boys. The woman had to lean on her left side "when she was working to become a mother"...

People are convinced that, to have a boy, they only have to place themselves on their right side at the moment of their love-making…  But in the end, the idea that Man comes from a tadpole displeases just as fast as the one that situates his origin in an egg.

Abbot Spallanzani, the great Italian biologist, Pasteur’s precursor, who died at the dawn of the XIXth Century, is the last to say anything good about spermatozoa.

Creatures endowed for him with a “supreme wisdom”, an “adorable wisdom”, they are only, for the Swiss physiologist Haller, the author of two hundred works on these questions, “insects” who are born in a not very nice environment, “faecal”, he says.  Soon, they are called “parasites”, vulgar “cercaried gymnodes” and the immense Cuvier himself reduces them, in 1841, to the rank of “microzoa”

From the beginning of the XVIIIth Century, there is a forceful return of the egg vogue…

But then these spermatozoa must be only “parasites”.

In the heart of the XIXth Century, two theses are going to sweep away all of the others, those of chemical generation and of electrical generation.

Tinchant demonstrates in four hundred tight pages that it is the man who “breathes in the principle of life contained in the air”, distills it in his blood and transforms it into sperm, “germ of life par excellence”.  The woman only “condenses” it, supplying it with hydrogen and carbon which form the membranes and the waters…  Long live the warrior once more, and too bad for the vivandiere!…

Burdach is scarcely more collected in demonstrating that the sexual act is of an electrical essence.

He explains that the electric contact which runs through the body when two people join, provokes an electrical commotion, and an “electrical conflict manifests itself in the power of the gaze of the two beings, enchained by the ties of love”

So, Victor Hugo’s contemporaries are delighted to learn that it is the electricity fairy who, by slipping “between the spinal cords of the man and the woman”, communicates to the organs of generation what is necessary to assure, with ecstasy, the survival of the species…

And Man would only begin to understand the true nature of fecundation less than one hundred and fifty years ago with Van Beneden’s fundamental discoveries.

We have only left the magical, crazy or baroque ideas on human procreation for this short space of time.

Less than one and a half centuries, against two or three  thousand years of phantasmagoria.  Food for thought, no?…

***

To be continued.

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