How Charles Darwin’s family paid the price of inbreeding

He is the father of evolution, whose discoveries revolutionised our understanding of genetics.

But even Charles Darwin was not exempt from the vagaries of DNA.

Three of Darwin’s 10 children died in childhood, while another three never had any children of their own, despite being married for years.

A study of the scientist’s family tree suggests inbreeding was to blame, with frequent cousin to cousin marriages lowering immunity to disease and raising the odds of infertility.

Darwin’s mother, Susannah, was the daughter of third cousins, one of which was Josiah Wedgwood, the founder of the pottery dynasty of the same name.

Darwin’s wife, Emma Wedgwood, was his first cousin, while the Wedgwood family tree contained several other marriages between cousins.

The couple had ten children – four girls and six boys – between 1839 and 1858. But only seven survived to adulthood.

Mail Online
Scientific America

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