ancestryink fisherman

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Apoplexy...perplexing?

Death records in the 19th Century frequently list "Apoplexy" as a cause of death.  The connotation of this word for me leads to a disturbing image of some poor soul with their eyes bulging, suffering extreme, vessel-bursting tension or excitement, until they literally explode to death - an "apoplectic fit."

Death records often list apoplexy with an accompanying factor, but overall it occurs so frequently as a cause of death, I thought I would take another look at its exact meaning.  The following is Wikipedia's definition:

"Historical Meaning
From the late 14th to the late 19th century[2], the word "apoplexy" was also used to describe any sudden death that began with a sudden loss of consciousness, especially one in which the victim died within a matter of seconds after losing consciousness. The word "apoplexy" may have been used to describe the symptom of sudden loss of consciousness immediately preceding death and not a verified disease process. Sudden cardiac deaths, ruptured cerebral aneurysms, certain ruptured aortic aneurysms, and even heart attacks may have been described as apoplexy in the past."

So, it would appear that "stroke" is essentially what is synonymous with "apoplexy," in our modern language.  It was perhaps the final paroxysm suffered after an illness or accident - much like "hypertension" is listed as a cause of death, today, though the actual underlying cause may have been long term cancer, for instance. (This was true and listed as such, on my own father's death report.)

From Wikipedia: Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott died of apoplexy.  Again, to Wikipedia:


"Alcott, who continued to write until her death, suffered chronic health problems in her later years,[11] including vertigo.[12] She and her earliest biographers[13] attributed her illness and death to mercury poisoning. During her American Civil War service, Alcott contracted typhoid fever and was treated with a compound containing mercury.[11] Recent analysis of Alcott's illness, however, suggests that her chronic health problems may have been associated with an autoimmune disease, not acute mercury exposure. Moreover, a late portrait of Alcott shows rashes on her cheeks, which is a characteristic of lupus.[11][14]

Alcott died at age 55 of a stroke in Boston, on March 6, 1888,[12] two days after her father's death. Her last words were "Is it not meningitis?"[15]






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