Subscribe
Subscribe
MY AMERICAN SCIENTIST
LOG IN! REGISTER!
SEARCH
 
Logo IMG
HOME > PAST ISSUE > COMMENTS > Comment Detail

Did Mercury Harm Darwin?


Comment

I refer to Keith Thompson's Marginalia article (May-June 2009) and Ann Somers letter in response (Sept-Oct 2009). Charles Darwin suffered from the Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS), a little-known but well defined disorder linked to abnormalities of mitochondrial DNA. Darwin's eczema (atopic dermatitis) at Cambridge, his sea-sickness on HMS Beagle, his vomiting induced by pleasurable occasions, his headaches, his palpitations, his abdominal pains and his anxiety were all part of this syndrome. His dental problems were the result his repeated vomiting of acid gastric secretions. His mother Susannah and his maternal uncle Tom had the same disorder, perhaps in milder form.

Like sufferers with CVS today, Darwin had relief from water treatment and he knew to avoid attacks by keeping to a life of seclusion. Again, like those with CVS today, Darwin suffered from and still suffers from misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatments. Darwin was certainly exposed to mercury in the form of calomel and arsenic in the form of Fowler's solution but neither of these caused his illness. As his was a mitochondrial disorder, we have only his poor mother to blame.

John Hayman
Melbourne, Australia

References:

Hayman, J., Darwin's Illness Revisited. British Medical Journal, 2009. manuscript no. 2009/647727: accepted for Christmas edition.

Hayman, J., Charles Darwin in New Zealand and Australia: insights into Darwin's illness and his developing Ideas on evolution. Medical Journal of Australia, 2009. manuscript no. MJA-2009-10991: accepted for Christmas edition.

posted by John Hayman
December 2, 2009

 

Read Past Issues on JSTOR

JSTOR, the online academic archive, contains complete back issues of American Scientist from 1913 (known then as the Sigma Xi Quarterly) through 2005.

The table of contents for each issue is freely available to all users; those with institutional access can read each complete issue.

View the full collection here.


Indexes

Year-end indexes in PDF format:

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010


Subscribe to Free eNewsletters!

  • American Scientist Update

  • An early peek at each new issue, with descriptions of feature articles, columns, and more. Every other issue contains links to everything in the latest issue's table of contents.

  • Scientists' Nightstand

  • News of book reviews published in American Scientist and around the web, as well as other noteworthy happenings in the world of science books.

    To sign up for automatic emails of the American Scientist Update and Scientists' Nightstand issues, create an online profile, then sign up in the My AmSci area.


Write for American Scientist

Review our submission guidelines.


Subscribe to American Scientist