Researchers have long argued about how the Syph initially came to be on mainland Europe. Its first outbreak was in 1495 among French soldiers. Some scientists thought that it was just a spontaneous outbreak of a previously harmless strain of something or other. And other scientists couldn’t help but notice that the timing of the outbreak was pretty much in lockstep with Columbus’s return from the New World. Which means that the first venture capitalist and his crew evidently enjoyed some of the local wares and can probably be considered the Caribbean’s first sex tourists. French philosopher Voltaire always blamed Columbus for the discovery of the Syph.
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So the scientiest says that after examination of the venereal variety of the disease that it can largely be traced back to a South American strain of the bacteria. Other scientists argue, using their science, that conclusions shouldn’t be drawn from these findings. And then something else about mutations.
Fun facts: It turns out that Columbus didn’t discover America. It was here the whole time and some Vikings probably were here first. And that makes sense; we’d probably be called Columbia if he were the first one here. Instead we get named after Amerigo Vespucci. So, when you’re kicking back and enjoying Columbus Day remember, while sipping Mai Tais, that we have Lief Ericson and Amerigo Vespucci to thank for this country too, but not to blame for Syphilis.
Read more from the BBC on the origin of Syphilis…