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The early history of goiter in the Americas, in New Zealand, and in England; a contribution to the etiology of the disease


, : The early history of goiter in the Americas, in New Zealand, and in England; a contribution to the etiology of the disease. Bull History Med 17(3): 229-268

Examination of numerous reports by early explorers, travellers, and missionaries discloses no evidence of goiter in the Americas or in New Zealand before the coming of Europeans. In the earliest paper by a physician on the diseases of American Indians, Benjamin Rush (1774), makes no mention of goiter. It was first seen among the Oneidas in 1797, and among whites in the Mohawk Valley in 1792. No racial immunity is shown by reports of Indian agency physicians in 1895. The earliest definite reference to goiter in Mexico is in 1778. There is no evidence that the ancient Mexicans or Guatemalans suffered from goiter, and it is extremely unlikely that the disease, if present, would have gone unrecorded. The statement that goiter had been seen among Indians of Peru (Barton, 1800) is based on a mistranslation. Among thousands of Peruvian anthropomorphic vases, one depicts exophthalmic goiter; none, simple goiter. The first reference found to goiter in Equador is in 1836; in Colombia, 1760. In the Americas goiter appeared within a century or more after the coming of white men, became very common in some places where later it was infrequent. The claim that goiter existed in New Zealand before the arrival of Europeans is dismissed as based on the use of a Maori word of many meanings. The early settlers were free from it. When it appeared it spread rapidly. In England the word "goiter," or "goitre," was used first in the 17th Cent. for a condition seen in the Alpes, Savoy, etc. The first clear indication of endemic goiter in England is found in the use of the term, "Derbyshire Neck" (1743). In 1717 John Lombe brought to Derby 2 natives of Piedmont, a notorious goiter district. Within 25 years goiter became prevalent in Derbyshire. Our author revives the suggestion of Humboldt, Hirsch, others that goiter may be due to a biological agent, possibly a virus, brought into Derbyshire in 1717 and into the Americas and into New Zealand by white men at different times. The bibliography contains 187 titles.

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