A new piece in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A may interest AHP readers: “Syndrome du jour: The historiography and moral implications of Diagnosing Darwin,” by Roderick D.Buchanan. Abstract:
Diagnosing Darwin’s health problems has a long history. Innumerable diagnoses have been proffered in letters, articles, and a handful of dedicated books. Diagnostic speculation has exhibited contrasting somatogenic or psychogenic preferences. Psychogenic accounts dominated mid-century but were soon challenged by somatic explanations citing specific infectious or toxic aetiologies. This tension remains, although psychogenic accounts have tended to be swamped by an array of somatogenic diagnoses championed by biomedical specialists. As a whole, this parade of diagnoses has a striking syndrome du jour quality. Successive conjectures speak of the preoccupations and diagnostic fads of their particular age. Moreover, for many participants in this diagnostic game, unconscious presentism combined with self-serving projection, turning the question of what ailed Darwin into something of a Rorschach test. Never far from the surface was a sometimes-fraught tussle over the man’s reputation, animated by the moral valences of the conjectures in play. In a broader sense, this diagnostic game has shaped biographical accounts of Darwin and his career in some significant ways.