On the Origins of Sickness

By Wilson, Bee | New Statesman (1996), May 3, 1999 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

On the Origins of Sickness


Wilson, Bee, New Statesman (1996)


No man is a hero to his stomach. It is a source of comfort to the envious that geniuses are just as shackled by diet as the rest of us - just as chained to their own digestive processes. Take Charles Darwin (1809-82). No individual has done more to change our perception of the universe. He fathomed the origin of species from squid to dandelion, from cherry to ape. He understood "the descent of man" as it had never been understood. Yet he never got to grips with the rumblings and retchings in his own tummy, which tortured the poor man for more than half his life.

Darwin hadn't always had digestive troubles. As a lad growing up in a well-to-do Shrewsbury family, he displayed a foppish gusto for roast beef and partridge shooting. At Edinburgh University, where he studied medicine, he tucked into local stewed herrings and fried oysters. He resented lecture time because it cut into breakfast time; he yawned through lessons on the properties of rhubarb. If Charles had followed his father, Robert, into the medical profession, maybe he, too, would have become corpulent and complacent. Darwin senior weighed 330lb.

But it was not to be. At the age of 22, Charles was engaged as a naturalist on board HMS Beagle, circumnavigating the globe, a four-and-a-half-year journey that vastly expanded his knowledge of food, as well as changing the course of his entire life. In Bahia Blanco, he ate ostrich egg dumplings (actually rhea) and roast armadillo, noting that armadillos, "cooked without their cases, taste and look like duck". Agouti, a large chocolate-coloured rodent, was "the very best meat I ever tasted". On a trek to Buenos Aires, he ate like a gaucho, "nothing but meat" roasted over a fire. He downed mate tea like a native. The tropical fruits of Tahiti amazed him - bread-fruit, pineapple and guava.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

On the Origins of Sickness
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?