Did Elizabeth Barrett Browning Have Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis?

Submitted by deb on Tue, 07/03/2012 – 18:31

Penn State researcher counts the ways poetess Browning may have had rare disease
By Tom Avril; Philadephia Inquirer Staff Writer

Scholars have proposed a number of explanations for the muscle weakness and other ailments that plagued the Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. But none of these after-the-fact diagnoses – from anxiety to tuberculosis – seemed to fit the symptoms perfectly. Now Pennsylvania State University researcher Anne Buchanan thinks she has cracked the case, as the result of an intensely personal connection.

Her theory: The poet suffered from a rare condition called hypokalemic periodic paralysis, the same illness that plagues Buchanan’s own daughter. The researcher makes her case in the current issue of Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, based on clues in Barrett Browning’s diary and letters, including those written to the man who would become her husband, the poet Robert Browning. Read more: