Reading Age of Autism Part 1 – An Unhidden Agenda

10 Oct

The first chapter of Age of Autism (called The Age of Syphilis) could easily have been summed up in one short sentence: Mercury is bad m’kay? Well no shit Sherlock(s). We all know that.

Taking us an a tour (and the book _is_ reasonably well narrated and edited) through the insane asylums of various European countries, through the lack of association of mercury poisoning and indigenous races of various countries, the two authors end up in Vienna and (place tongue in cheek) in a bombshell moment of horror, reveal their idea that Mozart might’ve died of mercury poisoning. Hardly a new idea. According to Wikipedia, Mozart has been suggested to have died from over 100 different things but the most likely is acute rheumatic fever.

What makes Age of Autism different from most is that they posit that Mozart’s mercury poisoning (if he was which is in doubt) came about whilst he was trying to cure Syphilis. Indeed, you could get the idea from reading Age of Autism that just about everyone in the world from the 1600’s onwards died of mercury poisoning whilst treating syphilis.

Lurking underneath this first chapter with its autism-free mundane plodding from situation to situation is where the authors reveal one of the main themes of the book.

…the best medical minds in Europe were slow to realize…

Page 24

But the notion that medicine might have been that habit just didn’t occur to [them] – perhaps because it could only mean that doctors were causing the worst manifestation of syphilis. And that was simply inconceivable.

Page 29

Not using ‘recognized forms of treatment’…may have spared the American Indians the brain lesions symptomatic of neurosyphilis.

Page 30

Despite all the evidence and concern, the heart of the medical profession remained committed to mercury treatment, and mainstream physicians rose strongly to its defense.

Page 32

I’m sure you don’t need more examples but trust me – they’re there. Anyway, as you can see Age of Autism is not _just_ a book about mercury being bad (m’kay?) its also a book about mainstream medicine and how stupid and purposefully evil it is as well as how frickin’ great complementary medicine is. Take a look at those quotes again. “See?” B & O seem to be screaming hysterically, “See? Look – even back then they were useless, these ‘doctors’…its just like now with The Vaccines!!!”

I mean don’t get me wrong – the mercury treatments of Syphilis were frequently worse than the disease but lets compare the trace amount of mercury in paediatric vaccines these days to a passage from Age of Autism:

Patients coated in mercury often stayed wrapped in bedclothes for weeks…[t]hey sat in baths saturated with mercury or squatted on stools above a steaming cauldron of it…

Page 31

So lest we forget, these two medical procedures, one commonly known as a ‘targeted precise injection’ and one known as ‘slopping that shit on with a spoon’ are not really comparable. So far, this is one of the main (though not only) weakness of the book – its comparing apples with oranges.

13 Responses to “Reading Age of Autism Part 1 – An Unhidden Agenda”

  1. Marge October 10, 2010 at 09:28 #

    We still test for syphilis in some neurological disorders, and mercury hasn’t been used for, what, a century?

    But facts aren’t really on their radar are they…

  2. lilandtedsmum October 10, 2010 at 09:34 #

    Well firstly, it’s generally discounted that mozart died of Mercury Poisoning…….although there is very little evidence surrounding the death of mozart. His body was so swollen and smelt so putrid by the time he finally popped his clogs his physician apparently decided that to carry out any kind of autopsy would be really rather unpleasant – and so he didn’t!

    However, what we do have is the testimonies of his family members, friends and doctors who were present during his death and the time leading up to his death. In none of these accounts of his illness/death does it mention some of the main symptoms of Mercury poisoning that one would have expected to have seen such as: memory loss, delirium, excessive salivation and you also would have expected him to have suffered from tremors. Mozart’s handwriting leading up to his death showed no signs whatsoever of any shakiness or tremors.

    So there you have it – it’s only the more “romantic” (I prefer the words delusional and obstinate) that still cling to this theory re Mozart. The truth is we’ll never truly know exactly what did kill him but there certainly is not enough evidence to link his death in any way to Mercury.

    It’s the same old same old though with AoA. When did a silly little thing like a lack of evidence ever stop them from making wild claims in the past?

    Don’t tell me….there were pharma shills skulking around in the 18th century and maybe even before then too…..perhaps they had shares in leeches???!!!

  3. daedalus2u October 10, 2010 at 15:51 #

    Untreated neurosyphilis is pretty bad and is pretty uniformly fatal in a couple of years. The first “real” treatment for it was what was called “fever therapy”. Inoculating the patient with malaria, letting them go through ~10 cycles of fever which took over a month before curing the malaria with quinine. Patients with neurosyphilis at that stage were pretty much all institutionalized anyway. Fever therapy had not a small death rate, but it was curative of neurosyphilis in many cases.

    Mercury was used for a lot of treatments. On the other thread I just left a comment on how mercury was used in teething powders and was a leading cause of death in children (23% of deaths were due to pink disease aka mercury poisoning). When many millions of children each received many thousands of times more mercury from teething powders than any child has received from vaccines, where are all the autistics from the first half of the 20th century?

    Why wasn’t there an epidemic of autism when children were being given so much mercury in teething powders that mercury poisoning was a leading cause of death? The obvious conclusion is because autism is not caused by mercury.

  4. Kev October 10, 2010 at 16:01 #

    Blaxill and Olmsted quote the death rate of fever therapy at 5%. As you say, a not inconsiderable amount.

    As for Pinks disease, there’s a chapter on that coming up, if I can drag myself through Chapter 2 which is *not* a great read so far.

  5. daedalus2u October 10, 2010 at 16:40 #

    I don’t think there are precise numbers for the death rate of fever therapy because such numbers were not kept. I think it depended a lot on how healthy the individual was before the course of treatment and the precise strain of malaria used. These were not standardized and there weren’t techniques for storing malaria in viable form, so they needed someone who had malaria to be able to treat the next person. I would have guessed somewhat higher, maybe 10-15%.

  6. Neuroskeptic October 10, 2010 at 22:04 #

    I’d still much rather have fever therapy than untreated neurosyphilis. The guy who invented it, Wagner-Jauregg, won the Nobel Prize for it. Although he later turned into a Nazi.

  7. Sullivan October 12, 2010 at 22:12 #

    Mr. Blaxill and Mr. Olmsted remind me of the old saying, “If all you have is a hammer, all the world looks like a nail”.

    All they have is correlation=causation. Not even really good correlation at that.

    I wonder how this team answers the basic problem in their hypothesis: general paralysis of the insane still exists today. It is rare. I guess the ever increasing background exposure to mercury is the reason?

  8. Sullivan October 12, 2010 at 22:20 #


    I don’t have the book handy at the moment. Do Mr. Olmsted and Mr. Blaxill refer to Jean-Martin Charcot in this chapter? He was a physician in the 19th century and he studied mercury intoxication. He noted the differences between mercury intoxication and “general paralysis of the insane”.

    Shows, (a) they are different and (b) the idea that GPI might be mercury poisoning is about 150 years old.

    *Shaking up the Salpetriere Jean-Martin Charcot and mercury-induced tremor*
    Methods: This study examines Charcot’s original notes on mercury intoxication from the Bibliotheque Charcot, Paris, and his show-and-tell patient presentations that were hand-transcribed by his students and later published.

    Results: Using his standard method of presenting multiple patients with a similar disorder side by side, Charcot assembled a series of patients with mercurial intoxication from the clinics of Paris. He emphasized the rest and action components of mercury-induced tremor and stressed the value of using graphical tremor recordings rather than relying only on visual observation. He drew attention to the importance of air ventilation to avoid intoxication and of removal from intoxicating environments. He distinguished the characteristics of mercury-induced tremor from tremor associated with Parkinson disease, multiple sclerosis, and *general paresis*. Based on the similar intention tremor in multiple sclerosis and mercury intoxication, human pathology studies in multiple sclerosis, and animal experiments with mercury, he suggested that axonal demyelination underlay this form of tremor in both conditions, the former restricted to the CNS and the second to peripheral nerves.

    Conclusions: These cases illuminate Charcot’s diagnostic strategy and his reliance on the clinico-anatomic method to correlate pathology with clinical signs. Whereas much of Charcot’s work emphasized hereditary etiologies of neurologic disease, these examples allow an understanding of his views on environmental factors in neurologic disorders as well as treatment strategies. Neurology (R) 2010; 74: 1739-1742

    emphasis added.

    I also wonder how they work out that general paresis (GPI) is considered a “treatable” condition if caught early. Antibiotics some how heal the damage cause by mercury?

  9. Kev October 13, 2010 at 08:32 #

    I think they do, yes. I’ll go back and check.

  10. Prometheus October 13, 2010 at 19:08 #

    Not to burst B&O’s bubble, but untreated syphilis (i.e. no mercury) ends with neurosyphilis and all of the nasty results noted in the “Age of Syphilis”. Even today – nearly a century after mercury was supplanted by sulfa antibiotics as the treatment for syphilis – untreated syphilis causes the “…brain lesions symptomatic [sic] of neurosyphilis.”

    Really, this is not too far out of line with Dan Olmsted’s “the Amish don’t vaccinate and don’t have autism” claim of a few years ago. It’s good to see that he hasn’t changed his research techniques.


    • Sullivan October 13, 2010 at 19:40 #

      Really, this is not too far out of line with Dan Olmsted’s “the Amish don’t vaccinate and don’t have autism” claim of a few years ago. It’s good to see that he hasn’t changed his research techniques.

      Absolutely. Mr. Olmsted’s methodology is a simple 2 part process. 1) correlation=causation. 2) the correlation doesn’t have to even be real as long as you can write a convincing story.

      Mr. Olmsted appears to even at this late date to have never spoken to anyone at the Clinic for Special Children. He uses blog posts at Autism News Beat for his source.

  11. David N. Brown October 14, 2010 at 08:18 #

    “apples with oranges”- or would it be better to say,.22 rimfire rifles with .50 machine guns?


  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - Reading Age of Autism Part 1 – An Unhidden Agenda « Left Brain/Right Brain -- - October 10, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kev, Brandon Blietz and Alltop Autism, Karen Simmons Sicoli. Karen Simmons Sicoli said: RT @kevleitch … Reading Age of Autism Part 1 – An Unhidden Agenda: The first chapter… […]

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