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Article
April 23, 1997

The Dueling Diagnoses of Darwin

Author Affiliations

Nottingham, United Kingdom

JAMA. 1997;277(16):1275. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540400025012
Abstract

To the Editor.  —In adding to the possible causes of Darwin's chronic ill health, Drs Barloon and Noyes1 pay little attention to the proposal made by my uncle2 that Darwin suffered from Chagas disease, a view widely accepted. Medawar3 strongly endorsed this suggestion "in being based upon the use of reasoning." The case, recently restated,4 rests on Darwin's detailed description of an attack on March 26, 1835, by the benchuca (Triatoma infestane), the vector for Trypanosoma cruzi, his prior excellent health, the accordance of Darwin's symptoms with Chagas disease, and the characteristic delay between exposure and the onset of chronic ill health.Barloon and Noyes quote selectively from Darwin's notes, creating the impression that he primarily suffered from acute episodic attacks of panic and agoraphobia. This is incorrect, and Darwin in 1845 described his condition thus: "I believe I have not had one whole day, or rather night,

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