Malaise, Vomiting, and the Beginning of “Extreme Spasmodic Daily & Nightly Flatulence”

Ralph Colp Jr. M.D.

in Darwin's Illness

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780813032313
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813039237 | DOI:
Malaise, Vomiting, and the Beginning of “Extreme Spasmodic Daily & Nightly Flatulence”

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From April to December, 1839, Charles Darwin often suffered from a malaise that depressed his capacities for socialization and work. In 1840, his illness worsened in two ways. At first, he had two new symptoms: periodic vomiting and flatulence, which continued for about two months. Then in the summer and fall of 1840, when he was with Emma in Maer during the first trimester of her second pregnancy, he had a second worsening of illness. His symptoms from the end of July through most of September, as recorded in Emma's diary, comprised “great flatulence”, languor, and vomiting in the day and night, which was more frequent than it had been previously. Mental stresses from Darwin's family life and his scientific work, as well as the infection with Chagas' disease along with mental stresses were the causes of his illness. The decline in physical vigor that he observed in himself at the age of thirty-three was the result of his experiencing frequent episodes of mental and physical fatigue, along with the discomforts and pains of daily and nightly episodes of flatulence.

Keywords: malaise; vomiting; flatulence; Charles Darwin; Emma; languor; mental stresses; Chagas' disease

Chapter.  3105 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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