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John Langdon Down
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Doctor
    (November 18, 1828-October 7, 1896)
    Born in Torpoint, England, United Kingdom
    Medical Superintendent of the Earlswood Asylum for Idiots (1858-68)
    Founded the Langdon Down Center (1868)
    Wrote 'Observations on the Ethnic Classification of Idiots' (1866)
    Described the mental disorder now known as Down Syndrome
    In 'Observations on the Ethnic Classification of Idiots,' he argued that mental disabilities in whites were throwbacks to more 'primitive' races.
    He called Down Syndrome 'Mongolian Idiocy,' even though the only physical similarity to Asians is that a minority of Down sufferers develop an epicanthic fold (a characteristic feature of Oriental eyes).
    A group of leading geneticists wrote to the medical journal 'The Lancet' urging that 'Mongolian idiocy' be dropped as a 'misleading' and 'embarrassing' term (1961).
    The World Health Organization officially dropped references to Mongolian idiocy at the request of the delegate from Mongolia (1965).
    He was a pioneer in education for the mentally handicapped.
    He defended higher education for women and, going against prevailing Victorian medical opinions, denied it would make them more liable to produced feeble-minded children.
    His grandson, born in 1905, had Down Syndrome.

Credit: C. Fishel


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