Improved Health and Living in a “Perpetually Half Knocked-Up Condition”

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:
Improved Health and Living in a “Perpetually Half Knocked-Up Condition”

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In the nine years from 1872 to 1881, the main events in Charles Darwin's health were several acute illnesses, persistent chronic illness, emotional upsets from work and certain social stresses, and an improvement in health. On 26 August 1873, he experienced what he described as “much loss of memory & severe shocks continually passing through my brain”, perhaps a transient case of cerebral anoxia. Four days later, he consulted at Down with Dr. Andrew Clark. Several days after starting Dr. Clark's diet, Darwin reported feeling better. On 4 March, he stopped the diet as he did not feel good. Along with complaining about Clark's diets and physics, he appears to have maintained confidence in Clark as his physician. Despite illness and vulnerability to illness, Darwin told an acquaintance that “my health is better than it was a few years ago” (this was three months after his episode of acute “giddiness”), and in December 1880, he wrote his old friend John Herbert: “My health is better than it used to be, but I live in a perpetually half knocked-up condition”. “Half knocked-up condition” refers to his sense of fatigue.

Keywords: Charles Darwin; health; half knocked-up condition; Dr. Andrew Clark; cerebral anoxia; diet; giddiness

Chapter.  3677 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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