By: Jennifer Hong - Staff Writer
Published: May 8, 2021

Darwin’s Death Linked To Travel Illnesses

Darwin's Death

Darwin’s Death - Researchers are studying Darwin’s death to find out if it’s linked to his travels. His death has been clouded by mystery for several decades, but now scientists have a new theory.

Darwin’s ailments are the topic of an annual conference in Baltimore on Friday that offers modern medical diagnoses for the mysterious illnesses and deaths of historical figures.

In past years, the conference hosted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Veterans Administration’s Maryland Health Care System has looked at Alexander the Great, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Booker T. Washington. Guest speakers include Darwin’s great-great-granddaughter, poet Ruth Padel, who penned the book, “Darwin: A Life in Poems.”

Philip A. Mackowiak, the VA Maryland medical care clinical center chief and UM medical school professor who started the conference in 1995, had Darwin on his running list of possible candidates for years.

Darwin, who lived from 1809 to 1882, traveled the world in his 20s cataloging and observing wildlife and later published “On the Origin of Species.”

Throughout his life, Darwin sought help for multiple health problems, which included vomiting stomach acids after every meal when the symptoms were at their worst. He was diagnosed with dozens of conditions including schizophrenia, appendicitis and lactose intolerance.

“It is particularly poignant that the scientists and physicians of his time could not provide Darwin, the father of modern life sciences, with relief from the ailments that affected so much of his life,” Mackowiak said.

The information used to evaluate Darwin’s case came from several sources, Mackowiak said, including the naturalist’s own letters, in which he wrote extensively about his complaints and his worries that he had passed on his illnesses to his children.


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