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I was reading the Wikipedia article on Inbreeding depression when I came across this:

Charles Darwin, through numerous experiments, was one of the first scientists to demonstrate the effects of inbreeding depression. Darwin had married his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood. He later became concerned that inbreeding within his own family would adversely affect the health of his own children. The Darwins had ten children, but three died before the age of ten. Of the surviving children, three of the six who had long-term marriages did not have any children.

The quote makes reference to the paper below:

"Was the Darwin/Wedgwood Dynasty Adversely Affected by Consanguinity?" Berra et al., Tim M.; Alvarez, Gonzalo; Ceballos, Francisco C. (2010) which is available in full via this link here.

The evidence for Darwin's concern is based solely on this quote:

“I have now six Boys!! & two girls; & it is the great drawback to my happiness, that they are not very robust; some of them seem to have inherited my detestable constitution” (Burkhardt and Smith 1991, p. 60).

So, here are my concerns about the quote above and also the multitude of news stories that were generated:

  • Does this paper provide proof of an in-breeding depression in Darwin's family?
  • Does the paper or any other reliable source provide proof that Darwin was concerned about the marriage to his cousin affecting the health of his children or descendants?
  • Is there any proof to suggest that in-breeding caused Darwin or one of Darwin's descendants to be barren, have frequently ill children or to have children that were unfit so as to die prior to 10 years of age?
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