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Darwin's Illness$
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Ralph Colp Jr.

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780813032313

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813032313.001.0001

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Theories of Keith and Alvarez, and a Comparison of Darwin's Illness with the Illnesses of His Relatives and Children

Theories of Keith and Alvarez, and a Comparison of Darwin's Illness with the Illnesses of His Relatives and Children

Chapter:
(p.134) 18 Theories of Keith and Alvarez, and a Comparison of Darwin's Illness with the Illnesses of His Relatives and Children
Source:
Darwin's Illness
Author(s):

Ralph Colp Jr. M.D.

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813032313.003.0018

After the publication of Leonard Darwin's theory of “auto-poisoning”, two authors propounded psychiatric theories. First was Sir Arthur Keith (1866–1955), an eminent English physician, anatomist, and champion of Darwinism, postulated that Charles Darwin became ill because of mental overwork. In 1959, Dr. Walter Alvarez (1884–1978), a noted American physician and medical author, published “The Nature of Charles Darwin's Lifelong Ill-Health”, in which he diagnosed his subject's illness as a “mild form of depression” that was inherited. Dr. Alvarez contends that Darwin's depression was inherited because it resembled the depressions of several of his Darwin and Wedgwood relations. A summary of what is known about the illnesses of seven of Darwin's relatives is provided. These seven are selected because of the availability of information about their health. In general, Dr. Alvarez's contention that Darwin's illness was inherited lacks evidence, and his contention that this illness was passed on to the Darwin children requires much qualification.

Keywords:   Charles Darwin, Sir Arthur Keith, Dr. Walter Alvarez, Darwin children, Wedgwood, depression, mental overwork

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