Who did Charles Darwin Marry? | Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by natural selection

Who did Charles Darwin Marry?

darwin.jpgJoel Shurkin, contributor

(Image: C.WisHisSoc/Everett/Rex)

Charles Darwin may have paid dearly for his legendary voyage on the HMS Beagle. He sacrificed his health.

Darwin experienced abdominal pain, waves of violent vomiting and skin eruptions in his life after the voyage. What caused his great discomfort has been a topic of discussion in medical circles for more than 100 years, but a modern diagnostician thinks he has the answer.

The University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and the Veterans Administration Maryland Health Care System hold a Historical Clinicopathological Conference each year that employs modern diagnostic knowledge in an attempt to unravel disorders of the famous deceased. Darwin was the focus of attention of this year's conference, held at the tail end of last week.

Sidney Cohen, director of research at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and an attendee at the event, says Darwin may have suffered from three ailments: cyclic vomiting syndrome, Chagas disease, and Helicobacter pylori, or peptic ulcers.

All three of the diseases would be treatable today.

Darwin died in 1882 and none of the diagnostic techniques used today existed. Cohen could only guess at his ailments from historic records of his symptoms.

Darwin was generally healthy before his 5-year voyage on the Beagle - although he was seasick for most of his time at sea. The voyage took him to South America, across the Pacific via the Galapagos Islands, and to Africa. About a year after returning to England he began falling ill.

Subscribe to New Scientist MagazineDuring the worst periods of his illness, he threw up after every meal, especially after breakfast. He went through debilitating cycles the rest of his life - although he lived to the ripe old age of 73.

Cohen said he thinks Darwin picked up Chagas disease, a parasitic infection, from a documented insect bite in Argentina, where the parasite is endemic. It is now treated with the drugs benznidazole and nifurtimox. Darwin may also have picked up H. pylori on the voyage.

No one knows what triggered the vomiting syndrome, but stress is often a causative factor - so even that might have been linked to the disorders Darwin gained during the voyage. It perhaps would have disappeared if the other ailments had been treated, says Cohen.

The case has a sad irony to it. Although Darwin was the son and grandson of physicians, the most eminent doctors of the day were flummoxed by his symptoms. They produced more than two-dozen different diagnoses, including schizophrenia. They tried everything to help, including arsenic, hydrotherapy, aloes, strychnine and codeine - some of which worked temporarily.

Darwin otherwise led an idyllic life. He was one of the most famous people in the world and a wealthy man. He was a member of one of England's great families, the Darwin-Wedgwoods, which even to this day, has produced a remarkable collection of scientists and artists.


by Sir_Elton_Joe

I'd always thought marrying a blood relative as close as a cousin was immoral, and certainly risky if you plan to have kids. Conventional wisdom says only primitive people who live in isolated places marry cousins. It leads to stupid children. But that's a myth.
It's the sort of myth that leads to stupid laws. Half the states in America have banned cousin marriage, but there's no good reason for it. You can marry your cousin and have perfectly intelligent kids.
Take Albert Einstein — was he intelligent enough for you? His parents were cousins, and he married his cousin. So did Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria

Hotbed of biodiversity: Fascinating images of wildlife from the Galapagos Islands

— Mother Nature Network
Located 575 miles off the coast of Ecuador, this remote volcanic archipelago is famous as the birthplace of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

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