What is albinism? Albinism is a genetic disorder that can affect all organisms with vertebrae. What does it do? Simple, Albinism causes a partial or complete lack of pigmentation in an organism. Or in layman terms, people affected with albinism lack the chemical that makes their body a certain color, be it black, yellow, or red. They’re also characterized by their glowing red eyes, making them often accused of being possessed by the devil. Albino’s are also unnaturally pale and also lack color in their hair, giving them a very ghost like appearance. Here we look into what Albinism really is.
I. A Brief History
The first case of albinism ever documented was by Balthar Tellez, a Spanish historian and missionary. While traveling Africa he met a native tribe with albino members in it. The Latin word for white was albus, thus leading to Tellez coining the term albino. Albinism is considered to be one of the oldest human anomalies ever documented. There are even cases of albinism inside the Bible. The Midrashic accounts state that Noah, of the old testament, at birth had hair as white as snow and eyes like the rays of the sun. His Father thought he was an angel and fled from the baby's presence, frightened for his very life.
Other recorded accounts of albinism include that of slave Robert Crews. He claimed that his hair was white and his eyes pink when he was born but while growing the hair turned to a light yellow-brown and the eyes were described as being clear light brown with dark pupils. Growing up, Crews also had a strong aversion to light (like a certain Biology teacher), due to the lack of pigments in his eyes. As a result he ended up with a permanent squint and a general dislike of fire. Other cases of albinism have not been so normal. In African countries such as Tanzania and Burundi, there has been a rise in witchcraft-related killings of albino people in recent years. This is because albino body parts are used in potions sold by...
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