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Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease

Previous Events

CHMD Research Seminar: Before the Dawn of Evolutionary Medicine: Darwinism and Medical Sciences between 1880 and 1940

14th October 2011, 12:00 to 14:00, D317 Ebsworth Building, Queen's Campus, Dr Fabio Zampieri (Padua University)

Evolutionary Medicine is a still-expanding new discipline inaugurated by George Williams and Randolph Nesse in a famous article published in 1991 on The Quarterly Review of Biology. One of the most shared opinions is that Evolutionary Medicine tries to understand why evolution and natural selection have left our body vulnerable to disease. The answer to this question seems to drive a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying human pathologies and, by consequence, to new therapeutic applications. However this is not the first time that physicians try to apply evolutionary biology to medicine. Between 1880 and 1940 several scientists developed some general evolutionary theories of disease, obviously in a different way compared to actual Evolutionary Medicine. Most of them viewed diseases as arising from deleterious traits that escape elimination by natural selection. In addition to an intrinsic historical interest, to reconstruct the theories and models of these first attempts can give us some interesting insights about the risks and traps implied in the challenge to combine two very different sciences such as medicine and evolutionary biology.

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