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Article
The Curious Death of Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783–1840): The Case for the Maidenhair Fern
Journal of Medical Biography (2010)
  • Charles T. Ambrose, University of Kentucky
Abstract

Constantine Rafinesque, a French émigré to America in the early 19th century, was a forerunner of Charles Darwin and a zealous field naturalist who identified thousands of new species of plants and animals. His career was controversial in part because of his unfocused ambition to gain scientific recognition. In his later years he published in many areas apart from biology. His polymathic life ended in 1840 with his death (aged 57) from stomach cancer. In 1826 he had developed an illness he thought was consumption and which he believed was cured by a herbal mixture he devised. It may have contained one or more species of ferns related to one now known to induce human gastric carcinoma. Rafinesque's self-medication may have led to his death years later.

Keywords
  • Constantine Rafinesque,
  • Constantine Samuel Rafinesque,
  • maidenhair fern
Publication Date
August, 2010
Citation Information
Charles T. Ambrose. "The Curious Death of Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783–1840): The Case for the Maidenhair Fern" Journal of Medical Biography Vol. 18 Iss. 3 (2010)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/charles_ambrose/51/