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Why the Name Down Syndrome?

By July 8, 2021July 30th, 2023One Comment3 min read
Why the name Down Syndrome?

Why the Name Down Syndrome?

Most of us know about the condition called Down Syndrome However, have you ever stopped to wonder, ‘Why the name Down Syndrome?

In 1846, somewhere in Devon, a young man called John was walking in the fields in the company of his parents. All of a sudden, it started raining and they ran into the nearest homestead to seek shelter.

As they sat, a young girl served them tea. She caught John’s attention. She looked different. Her facial features were different, she was not smiling. She didn’t look happy.

John wondered if there was any medical intervention that could assist the girl. At the time John worked at his father’s pharmaceutical store and his father discouraged his attempts to join medical school.

Quest for Knowledge

After John’s father died, he enrolled in medical school. The high cost of tuition fee saw him move in with his sister to cut down on other expenses. It was here that he would also meet his wife Mary.

John completes school and becomes a Chief Physician in a Lunatic Asylum. He makes tremendous changes that ensure that these children lived well. His wife volunteers to enhance and build the social skills of these individuals.

The story behind the name Down Syndrome

They say familiarity breeds contempt. John’s relationship with the management gradually disintegrates forcing John to resign and start his own home. His lawyer friend helps him acquire a mortgage to transform the home into a proper home for the mentally challenged.

He eyed the children of rich people who believed that children living with disability lowered their stature in society. His idea blossomed into a successful venture.

All this while, John had been conducting his scientific research. He was determined to know what was ailing the girl who served him tea. Additionally, he also wanted to improve their livelihood.

It’s a Mongolian Condition

John grouped individuals in 5 different races and observed them. He realized that they all looked the same. Their physical features made them loo like they were born by the same parents.

Their facial features also resembled the Mongolians and hence referred to them as ‘Mongols or Mongloids’. Moreover, this name was acceptable until the 1960s when the Chinese and Japanese scientists raised concerns over this name. They felt the name was racial.

Can we call it the Syndrome of Down instead?

Scientists approached John’s grandson and requested to name this condition after his grandfather. He did not object. His full name was John Langdown

The condition was called The Syndrome of Down, after the person who first interacted with it. Additionally, scientists had also discovered that this condition arose from having extra genetic material in chromosome 21.

The condition is referred to as Trisomy 21 or Down Syndrome.


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