Darwin`s travels may have led to his death

Charles Darwin was diagnosed with dozens of conditions including schizophrenia and appendicitis.

Updated: May 09, 2011, 09:41 AM IST

London: It has emerged that the very travels that inspired Charles Darwin to discover his theory of evolution may also have led to one of the many illnesses that plagued him for decades and ultimately led to his death.

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, reports the Daily Mail.

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,” said Philip A Mackowiak, VA Maryland medical care clinical center chief and UM medical school professor.

Gastroenterologist Dr Sidney Cohen, a Thomas Jefferson University medical college professor of medicine and research director, assessed Darwin`s ailments for a conference and identified three illnesses.

Going on Darwin`s documented symptoms, Cohen concluded that he had suffered from cyclic vomiting syndrome early in his life.

He also believes the British naturalist contracted Chagas disease, a parasitic illness that can lie dormant for years, during a five-year trip around the globe on the HMS Beagle in his 20s.

That illness would describe the heart disease that Darwin contracted later in life and eventually caused his death, said Cohen.

He believes Darwin also suffered from Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that cause peptic ulcer disease and often occurs with Chagas.

Mackowiak said the information used to evaluate Darwin`s case came from several sources, 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.

Darwin lived from 1809 to 1882, travelled the world in his 20s cataloguing and observing wildlife and later published ‘On the Origin of Species’.

The study was presented at the annual conference in the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Veterans Administration`s Maryland Health Care System in Baltimore on Friday.