I sculptor eugenics:
Lorenzo the Magnificent shocked his friends who came over to visit one day and found him on the floor playing with his children instead of scurrying around planning a war as the bight young men were expected to do.  Another time, Lorenzo invited some children from Florence to come to his garden and learn sculpting.  As the magnate was strolling among the toiling children he noticed one child who had created a marvelously evil looking, grinning satyr.  Lorenzo remarked, “That’s a splendid face, but he has all his teeth.  I would think that such a bad old satyr would have lost some.”  When circumambulation brought Lorenzo back again he saw that the boy had not only knocked out a few teeth but was chiseling below the lower lip to represent the mandibular atrophy chronic edentia causes.  I have it myself.  “Not bad,” said Lorenzo, “Not bad Michelangelo.” 

Evidently Lorenzo liked children.  I wish I had him for a patron. Who wouldn’t? 

There is a book, I, Michelangelo, Sculptor; if you have not read it, do so before reading further … are you back?

The book is a collection of translations of letters by that great sculptor.  There are recurrent themes.  At an early age Michelangelo complains of being old.  This continues until his death at age 88.  There is a sketch for one of the heroic figures he created in the Sistine Chapel.  The face on the sketch is recognizably the artist.  His butt is drooping.  That hasn’t happened to me yet even though I’m older than Michelangelo was.

Another theme is longing to return to Florence from Rome, where he did so much of his work.  Time and again he says how much he wants to come home.

Another theme is his fondness for his nephew Leonardo.  (Not the famous genius; I had remembered the nephew’s name as Bernardo, but Wikipedia says otherwise.)  A number of times Michelangelo urges Leonardo to marry.  When at least Leonardo starts courting a woman, Michelangelo sends his congratulations but cautions that he has heard that she is near-sighted, and that can be hereditary.  Leonardo should think twice about it. 

Leonardo of course marries her, and Michelangelo – having seen the connection – sends further congratulations but says that at Leonardo’s advanced age children might be hazardous to his health.  Michelangelo says he is concerned and would hate to lose his nephew.  Then there are a number of letters of congratulation as the couple has child after child.

At last the great man died and was buried, at the pope’s orders, with great pomp in Saint Peter’s in Rome.  That night there was a commotion.  A band of armed men broke into the cathedral, took the body and galloped back to Florence.  It was Leonardo.  Michelangelo was home at last.

The reference to marrying someone with myopia as being hereditary is the first reference I know of to something that might be called eugenics, which will be our next topic. 

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