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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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The Possibility of Toxicity from Arsenic, and from Other Medicines

The Possibility of Toxicity from Arsenic, and from Other Medicines

(p.149) 22 The Possibility of Toxicity from Arsenic, and from Other Medicines
Darwin's Illness

Ralph Colp Jr. M.D.

University Press of Florida

In October 1971, John H. Winslow wrote a brochure entitled Darwin's Victorian Malady: Evidence for Its Medically Induced Origin. In it, Dr. Winslow rejected all previous explanations for Charles Darwin's illness and held that his subject suffered from chronic arsenic poisoning, a cause that had already been discounted. Dr. Winslow presented two main arguments: that twenty-one manifestations of Darwin's illness and of arsenic poisoning form a “very close match”, and that Darwin took arsenic throughout his life, probably in the form of Fowler's solution, beginning in his teens, or that he “either ceased to take arsenic or significantly lessened the amount he was taking sometime during his late middle years”. These arguments are specifically addressed. In the course of trying to demonstrate that Darwin's illness resulted from arsenic poisoning, Dr. Winslow makes a series of statements about Darwin's health that are either untrue or only partially true. The chapter then reviews what is known about Darwin's taking of arsenic.

Keywords:   Charles Darwin, John H. Winslow, chronic arsenic poisoning, metal toxicity, medicines, health, illness

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