THE INTERLUDE OF CANCER 123
The embryologist never tells the story of his work in the order of his researches. He cannot; for in these he pushes his way little by little, step by step, from the known to the unknown, and at any given time he may be working in two directions—upwards from the starting-point of the fertilized egg, and downwards from the finished embryo. Thus it happened, that what, logically regarded, should have been the first investigation in 1888—the history of the germ-cells—was actually the last, as it was also the coping-stone which crowned the work, and made it lasting.
The actual cancer researches have been a mere interlude in the whole—an intermezzo. “The prey of pain let me not be !“ The solution of the problems of cancer was but a corollary of what had gone before, and it followed naturally and irresistibly out of the germ-cell results, the course of the life-cycle, and the conclusions as to germinal continuity and heredity. Since the embryological theories of the textbooks are, to apply the words of Pasteur, a mass of baseless hypotheses, it follows that the solution of the problems of cancer can be grasped properly only by a comprehension of the course of the cycle of life from generation to generation, as my researches of past years have revealed it.
The starting-point of a new cycle is the fertilization of an egg, and the outline history of the cycle is not complete until we have shown how new eggs, new reproductive elements, arise; and until we have reached the point at which these are ready for fertilization, to start the cycle anew. An egg is fertilized and development begins by its cleavage; an ever-increasing number of cells is formed in this way, and anon we reach a point, at which the orthodox embryologist says that the egg-cleavage is finished. What has then come into being? The usual