Who Discovered Albinism?


Albinistic man portrait, Image from Wikimedia CommonsAlbinism is medically called hypopigmentary congenital disorder but it is also called by other names such as achromatosis, achromia, or achromasia. Albinism results from the complete or partial absence of the pigment melanin that provides color to skin, hair, and the eyes. People with albinism are called albinos; albino animals (e.g. snakes, birds) are also found in nature. Albinos have extremely light skin and hair (yellow or red tinge); they can also have hazel, blue, or brown eyes.

Albinism is derived from the Latin word albus which means white. Albinism is a genetic disease affecting the enzyme tyrosinase involved in the production of melanin. There are two different forms of albinism: hypomelanism/hypomelanosis and amelanism/amelanosis. Hypomelanism is the partial lack of melanin while amelanism is the complete absence of the pigment.

Albinism has been recognized in earlier times, in different cultures.  The condition is mentioned in the writings of early Roman scholars such as Plinius Secundus and Aulus Gellius. Although these scholars described the condition, they did not recognize albinism as a disease.

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It was the English physician Sir Archibald Garrod (1857-1936) who first recognized albinism as a disease some time in 1908. According to him, albinism is a kind of hereditary inborn error of metabolism. Sir Garrod conducted extensive research on albinism. He observed that albino people have hypersensitivity to light, eye misalignment (strabismus), astigmatism, nystagmus, abnormal decussation or crossing of the optic nerves, underdevelopment of the optic nerve and retina.

Although the biological cause of albinism is already known, there are still societies that are not well educated about the disease. Albino people are widely discriminated because of their physical differences to the rest of the population especially in Africa where a majority of the population . Do you that albino people are hunted and killed in Tanzania? There is a black market of albino body parts in Tanzania. Limbs, eyes, skin, hair, tongue, genitals, and organs of albino people are sold to witchdoctors in Tanzania. Witchdoctors use the body parts to make potions that promises wealth and good fortune to those who will drink the “magical potions.”[ad#afterpost]