Did Tainted Cow’s Milk Kill Jane Austen?

A colored adaptation of a sketch of English novelist Jane Austen (Credit: Wikimedia)

English novelist Jane Austen died at age 41 from a somewhat mysterious illness. For nearly the past fifty years, Janeites, doctors and literary scholars have attempted to piece together the clues in her final letters and diagnose her fatal condition.

The most widely accepted diagnosis is Addison’s disease – a rare disorder in which the adrenal glands fail to produce sufficient levels of vital hormones. Biographer Claire Tomalin suggested lymphoma, cancer of the immune system – an idea that has also gained support.

Now, British medical researcher Katherine White offers a novel hypothesis: cow’s milk. Having reexamined Austen’s surviving personal correspondence, White proposes Austen died from a tuberculosis infection after drinking some unpasteurized cow’s milk.

How does White’s new diagnosis measure up? Read more at Scienceline to find out!

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