|A depiction of the maternal-paternal "visual" imagination theory as found in the Bible. |
The maternal imagination theory was originated by Empedocles:
“Empedocles says that fetuses are shaped by what the woman visualizes around the time of the conception. For often women have fallen in love with statues and paintings and have produced offspring which resemble.”— Aetius (c.90AD), Fragment 5.12.2 (Dox. Gr. 423) 
The theory was prevalent, thereafter, in the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans. 
An animal spots and stripes maternal-paternal visual imagination theory is found in the Bible, Genesis 30:37-42, as shown adjacent. 
The semi-modern version of theory of effect of maternal imagination upon fetus formation was proposed by Dutch physician Levinus Lemnius (1505-1568); the best known version of which is as follows: 
“If a woman, at the time of her conception, think of another man present or absent, the child will be like him.”
English psychologist Robert Burton (1577-1640), in his 1621 The Anatomy of Melancholy, quoting the above, elaborated further Lemnius’ theory, in respect to unhealthy imagination upon conception. 
French mathematician-physicist, philosopher, and evolutionist Pierre Maupertuis (1698-1758) devoted a section in his 1745 Venus Physics to the possible effects of maternal imagination upon the fetus, wherein he included atomic theory and affinity chemistry logic reasoning. 
French mathematician and natural philosopher Buffon (1707-1788), agreeing with his Maupertuis, devoted a long chapter to the subject of maternal imagination on the fetus in Natural History. 
In 1788, Benjamin Bablot (1754-1802) published Essay on the Power of Imagination of Pregnant Women, in which he defended Burton and seventeenth-century theorists, but also invoked Franz Mesmer (1734-1815) and his theory of hypnotic influence to support his arguments. 
English physician Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), in the generation chapter of his 1796 Zoonomia, discussed male and female imagination. 
|A rendition of the double mental adultery, of the maternal imagination theory, that occurs in German polyintellect Johann Goethe’s 1809 Elective Affinities, wherein the two main characters Charlotte and Eduard, in P1:C11, make love, Charlotte thinking about the Captain, Eduard thinking about Ottilie, and nine months later Charlotte bears a son who has Ottilie’s dark eyes and the Captain’s facial features. |
In German polyintellect Johann Goethe’s 1809 Elective Affinities, the two main characters Charlotte and Eduard, in P1:C11, engage in a mental double adultery while making love, Charlotte thinking about the Captain, Eduard thinking about Ottilie, and nine months later Charlotte bears a son, Otto, who has Ottilie’s dark eyes and the Captain’s facial features. 
American literature scholar Hermione de Almeida states that Goethe got the theory from Burton. 
It would seem more likely, however, that Goethe based his reasoning of the theory on Maupertuis (or Buffon), who employed chemical affinity theory in his version of the theory, to the effect that molecules of matter were endowed with intelligence, desire, aversion and memory in primitive form, having sympathy with the organism, to the effect that an extensive connection between the fetus and mother existed. Goethe may have gleaned the male/female imagination aspect from Darwin and may have gleaned Mesmer theory from Bablot, as he does use magnetic headache remedy in the novella.
1. (a) De Almeida, Hermoine. (1991). Romantic Medicine and John Keats (pg. 265-66). Oxford University Press.
(b) Levinus Lemnius – Wikipedia.
2. (a) De Almeida, Hermoine. (1991). Romantic Medicine and John Keats (pg. 265-66). Oxford University Press.
(b) The Anatomy of Melancholy – Wikipedia.
3. De Almeida, Hermoine. (1991). Romantic Medicine and John Keats (pg. 265-66). Oxford University Press.
4. Gustafson, Susan F. (2002). Men Desiring Men: the Poetry of Same-Sex Identity and Desire in German Classicism (§: Elective Affinities or Metaphors of Self and (Same-Sex) Desire, pgs. 67-91; physiology of reproduction, pg. 69). Wayne State University.
5. Bablot, Benjamin. (1788). Essay on the Power of Imagination of Pregnant Women (Dissertation sur le Pouvoir de l’imagination des femmes enceintes). Publisher.
6. Ballantyne, John W. (1897). Teratogenesis: an Inquiry into the Causes of Monstrosities: History of the Theories of the Past (§3: Mental Influence, pgs. 24-). Oliver and Boyd.
7. Gilgamesh, Horus and Tickheathen, Agnes. (2013). Awkward Moments Children’s Bible (Foreword: David McAfee) (eB) (Ѻ) (Answers in Genesis, pgs. 7-8). CreateSpace.
8. Empedocles. (435BC). The Poem of Empedocles: a Text and Translation with an Introduction (editor: Brad Inwood) (pg. 185). University of Toronto Press, 1992.