Margie Profet

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Margaret J. "Margie" Profet (born August 7, 1958) is an American evolutionary biologist with no formal biology training who created a decade-long controversy when she published her findings on the role of Darwinian evolution in menstruation,[1] allergies[2] and morning sickness.[3][4] She argued that these three processes had evolved to eliminate pathogens, carcinogens and other toxins from the body.

Detractors argued that little to no experimental evidence supported Profet's reasoning.[5] But supporters—including U.C. Santa Barbara anthropologist Donald Symons and U.C. Berkeley toxicologist Bruce Ames—considered her work a pioneering analysis of evolutionary theory in a never-before-studied, everyday context.

When Profet won a MacArthur Fellowship in 1993,[6] international media took notice. New York Times reporter Natalie Angier called Profet's theory that menstruation protected the female mammal's reproductive canals a "radical new view".[7] Scientific American, Time, Omni, and even People Magazine all followed with in-depth profiles of the 35-year-old "maverick" scientific prodigy.[8][9][10][11]

Profet went on to publish two equally controversial bestselling books, 1995's Protecting Your Baby-To-Be: Preventing Birth Defects in the First Trimester and a 1997 follow up, Pregnancy Sickness: Using Your Body's Natural Defenses to Protect Your Baby-To-Be.

A graduate of Harvard University, where Profet received a political philosophy degree in 1980; and University of California, Berkeley, where in 1985 she received a bachelor's degree in physics, Profet returned to school in 1994, studying mathematics at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she was awarded a "visiting scholar" position in the astronomy department, an allied discipline.[12] Several years later, she returned to Harvard, once again to study math.

Recently, Cornell University researchers Paul and Janet Shellman-Sherman found Profet's theory that allergies are evolved ways to expel toxins and carcinogens—the so-called "toxin" or "prophylaxis hypothesis"— may explain a mysterious observation dating back to 1953 and replicated many times since: People with allergies are at much lower risk for some types of cancers, most notably the brain tumor glioma.[13][14]

Disappearance and discovery[edit]

Profet vanished from Cambridge, Massachusetts; according to friends and colleagues, in 2005; according to family members, before that. Her whereabouts were unknown for over seven years until she was found in Boston, Massachusetts, after a long ordeal with poverty and illness. She was reunited with her family in Southern California on May 16, 2012 as a result of nationwide attention from a May 2012 Psychology Today article.[15][16][17]


  1. ^ Profet, Margie (September 1993), "Menstruation as a Defense Against Pathogens Transported by Sperm", The Quarterly Review of Biology (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press) 68 (3): 335–386, doi:10.1086/418170, ISSN 0033-5770, JSTOR 2831191, PMID 8210311 
  2. ^ Profet, Margie (March 1991), "The Function of Allergy: Immunological Defense Against Toxins", The Quarterly Review of Biology (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press) 66 (1): 23–62, ISSN 0033-5770, JSTOR 2830331, PMID 2052671 
  3. ^ Profet, Margie (1988), "The Evolution of Pregnancy Sickness as Protection to the Embryo Against Pleistocene Teratogens", Evolutionary Theory 8: 177–190 
  4. ^ Profet, Margie (1992). "Chapter 8: Pregnancy Sickness as Adaptation: A Deterrent to Maternal Ingestion of Teratogens". In Barkow, Jerome H.; Cosmides, Leda; Tooby, John. The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture. Oxford University Press. pp. 327–366. ISBN 0-19-506023-7. 
  5. ^ Profet, profits, and proof: Do nausea and vomiting of early pregnancy protect women from "harmful" vegetables? American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology 176(1):179-181, January 1997.
  6. ^ "Fellows List – P". MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  7. ^ Radical New View of Role of Menstruation, New York Times, September 21, 1993
  8. ^ Margie Profet: Evolutionary Theories for Everyday Life, Scientific American, April 1996
  9. ^ "School Isn't My Kind of Thing" Time, Sept. 4, 1993
  10. ^ A Curse No More People Magazine
  11. ^ Margie Profet: Co-Evolution Omni, May 1994
  12. ^ Darwinian Medicine – It's A War Out There And Margie Profet, A Leading Theorist In A New Science, Thinks The Human Body Does Some Pretty Weird Things To Survive Seattle Times, July 31, 1994
  13. ^ Allergies: Their Role in Cancer Prevention Quarterly Review of Biology, December, 2008
  14. ^ Research Reinforces Potential Allergies-Glioma Connection Journal of the National Cancer Institute, February 20, 2012
  15. ^ Mike Martin, "The Mysterious Case of the Vanishing Genius: Margie Profet generated solutions to seemingly intractable puzzles of biology. Then she disappeared", Psychology Today, May 1, 2012, updated June 8, 2012; alternative link
  16. ^ Margie Profet's Unfinished Symphony Weekly Scientist May 11, 2009 and May 29, 2012
  17. ^ Missing biologist surfaces, reunites with family Nature News