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Darwin, Charles - Gets a cure



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Extract from FASEB J. 2007 Jul;21(9):1948-50."Taking the waters"--springs, wells, and spas. Frosch WA. Department of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College, 525 East 68th St., New York, NY 10021, USA. wafrosc@med.cornell.edu

PMID: 17592155

In March of 1849, Charles Darwin consulted Gully for his distressing symptoms which included dizziness, nausea, retching, boils, and headaches which had not responded to traditional treatments. Gully was puzzled, but agreed that dyspepsia was the culprit. This term then included ideas of physical weakness, loss of appetite, and depression of spirits, morbid despondency, and gloom—exactly the illness Gully “cured” by revitalizing the inner organs. The digestive organs irritated the brain and spinal cord and these in turn irritated the stomach. As Darwin put it, he “… thinks my head or top of spinal chord cause of mischief .”

Darwin, his family, and servants remained until the end of June. For the first ten days he was rubbed with wet towels. He graduated to wet-sheet packing and the hot air bath. Wet-sheet packing was used for “lowering the energy of the brain,” and was thought to be a powerful sedative (later, it had a long history of use in psychiatric hospitals). This was followed by a dripping sheet with which he was vigorously rubbed. Darwin also received the perspiration bath: “At present,” wrote Darwin, “I am heated by Spirit lamp until I stream with perspiration, & am then suddenly rubbed violently with towels dripping with cold water …”

However absurd it sounded, he assured his friend Joseph Hooker, “I feel certain that the water cure is no quackery ”—as evidenced by four returns, other water cures, and sending a daughter for similar treatment. His treatment moved into the usual routine of regular showers, communal baths, and sheets and compresses. Gully also sent patients to the top of a nearby hill four times a day, a trek of seven miles, half steeply uphill. Darwin complained that he was turned into a walking and eating machine. However, he felt the cure “… has answered to a considerable extent: my sickness much checked and considerable strength gained …an astonishingly renovating action on my health"

The source of the experience

Darwin, Charles

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps