Medicine, evolution and natural selection: An historical overview

By Fabio Zampieri

Quarterly Review of Biology 84 (4) 2009, p 333-355.

This is the first comprehensive treatment of the history of evolutionary approaches to medicine.  It provides the fascinating and long-needed context for recent new work on the topic, and it uses publication patterns and other data to establish the fundamental discontinuity between 19th century Medical Darwinism and modern Darwinian Medicine.  This will be of interest to all in the evolutionary medicine community
Contemporary Darwinian medicine is a still-expanding new discipline, one of whose principalaims is to arrive at an evolutionary understanding of those aspects of the body that leave it vulnerableto disease. Historically, there was a precedent for this research; between 1880 and 1940, severalscientists tried to develop some general evolutionary theories of disease as arising from deleterious traitsthat escape elimination by natural selection. In contrast, contemporary Darwinian medicine usesevolutionary theory to consider all the possible reasons why selection has left humans vulnerable todisease.