We Now Know What Medical Diseases These Historic Figures Had

Unveiling the ailments that afflicted iconic personalities adds a layer of humanity to their larger-than-life narratives. It’s a detective story where medical records, letters, and accounts… Alexander Gabriel - November 30, 2023

Unveiling the ailments that afflicted iconic personalities adds a layer of humanity to their larger-than-life narratives. It’s a detective story where medical records, letters, and accounts from the annals of history become the clues that lead us to a deeper understanding of the challenges they faced. From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the revered leaders of the Renaissance, each revelation is a puzzle piece that contributes to a more comprehensive portrait of their lives. The pursuit of these hidden medical tales not only satisfies our curiosity but also underscores the shared vulnerability of all humans, regardless of their historical stature. It’s a riveting exploration that transforms these figures from distant legends into relatable individuals, reminding us that even the greatest minds were not immune to the intricacies of the human condition.


Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking, the brilliant theoretical physicist, achieved one of his most significant milestones with the formulation of Hawking radiation, a groundbreaking concept that revolutionized our understanding of black holes. In the face of the prevailing belief that nothing could escape a black hole’s gravitational pull, Hawking theorized that quantum effects near the event horizon could lead to the emission of radiation. This groundbreaking insight not only challenged established scientific paradigms but also laid the foundation for further advancements in theoretical physics, solidifying Hawking’s legacy as a trailblazer in our exploration of the cosmos.

Diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 21, Hawking confronted the relentless progression of this debilitating neurological disease with unparalleled resilience. Despite the grim prognosis that typically accompanies ALS, he defied all odds, becoming an iconic figure known not just for his contributions to science but for his resilience in the face of physical adversity. Hawking’s battle against ALS became an integral part of his narrative, turning him into a symbol of perseverance and determination. Through groundbreaking research, innovative technology, and an unyielding will, he continued to unravel the mysteries of the universe even as his own body succumbed to the effects of the relentless disease.

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Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar, the iconic Roman statesman and military general, left an indelible mark on history. Conquering Gaul in a series of brilliantly executed military campaigns, Caesar not only expanded the Roman Republic’s territory but also solidified his reputation as a military genius. His political prowess, evident in the First Triumvirate, ushered in a period of significant political influence, culminating in his appointment as dictator perpetuo—perpetual dictator—an unprecedented position that fundamentally altered the Roman political landscape.

The historical enigma surrounding Julius Caesar deepens as some scholars speculate that the renowned Roman general and statesman may have grappled with a series of small strokes during his illustrious life. Unraveling the mysteries of Caesar’s health adds a new layer to his complex persona. Analyzing historical accounts and piecing together evidence from various sources, researchers propose that the Roman leader may have endured the subtle yet consequential impact of small strokes. Small strokes can cause subtle but significant changes in cognitive function, affecting memory, attention, and decision-making abilities. These miniature cerebrovascular incidents may lead to physical impairments, such as weakness or numbness in specific body parts, highlighting the diverse and often underestimated consequences of small strokes. The cumulative impact of recurrent small strokes can elevate the risk of long-term cognitive decline and increase susceptibility to more severe strokes.


Sir Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton, the towering figure in the scientific revolution, made extraordinary contributions that transformed the field of physics. His groundbreaking work on the laws of motion and universal gravitation laid the foundation for classical mechanics, providing a unifying framework to explain the motion of celestial bodies and objects on Earth. Newton’s mathematical brilliance was equally remarkable, as seen in the development of calculus, an essential tool in scientific computations. By formulating these enduring principles, Newton’s legacy endures as a cornerstone of physics, influencing generations of scientists and shaping our understanding of the fundamental laws governing the natural world.

Speculation among historians and mental health experts suggests that Sir Isaac Newton may have grappled with bipolar disorder. Examining historical records and personal accounts, researchers explore the possibility that Newton’s intense periods of creativity and productivity, marked by groundbreaking scientific discoveries, could be indicative of manic episodes characteristic of bipolar disorder. Conversely, his documented bouts of deep introspection, withdrawal, and melancholy are examined through the lens of depressive phases associated with the disorder. This conjecture adds a nuanced layer to our understanding of Newton, illustrating the potential intersection between mental health challenges and genius. It prompts a reevaluation of the factors that influenced his remarkable contributions to science.

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Charles Darwin

Through extensive observations during his voyage on the HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin formulated the concept of natural selection, proposing that species evolve over time through the gradual accumulation of advantageous traits. His seminal work, “On the Origin of Species,” published in 1859, revolutionized biology and ignited debates that continue to shape scientific discourse. Darwin’s meticulous research and revolutionary ideas remain pivotal in our understanding of the interconnectedness and diversity of life on Earth

Examining historical records and Darwin’s personal writings, researchers point to instances where he experienced recurring episodes of severe vomiting and gastrointestinal distress. These symptoms align with patterns observed in individuals with mitochondrial disorders, suggesting that Darwin may have grappled with this condition throughout his life. Mitochondrial disorders are a group of genetic conditions that affect the mitochondria, the energy-producing structures within cells. These disorders can manifest in a variety of ways, impacting various organs and systems in the body. Symptoms often involve energy deficiency and can range from muscle weakness and fatigue to more severe complications.

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King George III

King George III, whose reign spanned from 1760 to 1820, witnessed several notable highlights that shaped British history. His leadership during the American Revolutionary War, despite ending in defeat for Britain, showcased his resilience and commitment to his role as monarch. The establishment of the United Kingdom in 1801 under George III’s reign marked a significant political and territorial consolidation. Additionally, his support for cultural and scientific advancements, such as the Royal Academy of Arts and the expansion of the Royal Navy, underscored George III’s multifaceted impact on the nation during a transformative period in British history.

King George III is believed to have suffered from a genetic blood disorder known as porphyria. Historical records and accounts from the time describe episodes of erratic behavior, abdominal pain, and mental distress that align with the symptoms of porphyria. This hereditary disorder affects the production of heme, a component of hemoglobin, and can lead to a range of symptoms, including neurological and psychiatric manifestations. The exploration of King George III’s potential struggle with porphyria adds a layer of complexity to our understanding of his reign, showing how genetics and historical events impact the lives of even the most prominent figures in history.


Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman, a towering figure in the history of abolitionism, achieved remarkable feats that transcended the bounds of her time. As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Tubman led countless enslaved individuals to freedom, navigating perilous journeys with unparalleled courage and resourcefulness. Her contributions to the Union during the Civil War as a nurse, cook, and spy further exemplified her dedication to the cause of emancipation. Tubman’s advocacy for women’s suffrage in the later years of her life demonstrated her commitment to broader social justice, solidifying her legacy as an icon.

Harriet Tubman is believed to have endured a traumatic brain injury during her youth. Historical accounts suggest that she sustained a severe blow to the head when a slave overseer threw a heavy metal weight at another fleeing slave but inadvertently struck Tubman instead. This traumatic incident may have contributed to the onset of narcolepsy, a neurological disorder characterized by sudden and uncontrollable bouts of sleep. Tubman’s resilience in the face of these challenges is a testament to her indomitable spirit, as she not only escaped enslavement but went on to lead countless others to freedom despite the enduring effects of her traumatic brain injury and narcolepsy.


Jane Austen

Jane Austen, the beloved English novelist, crafted timeless literary masterpieces that continue to captivate readers across generations. In “Pride and Prejudice,” Austen navigates the complexities of social class and romance through the spirited Elizabeth Bennet and the enigmatic Mr. Darcy. “Sense and Sensibility” explores the contrasts between two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, in matters of love and societal expectations. Austen’s biting social commentary finds a delightful canvas in “Emma,” where the eponymous heroine navigates the pitfalls of matchmaking and self-discovery. Through her keen observations of society, wit, and astute characterizations, Jane Austen’s novels remain enduring classics that offer profound insights into human nature and the intricacies of relationships in the Regency era.

In a retrospective analysis of Jane Austen’s life, researchers have posthumously speculated that the revered novelist may have battled Addison’s disease. Scrutinizing historical records and letters, they point to descriptions of Austen’s chronic fatigue, weakness, and hyperpigmentation—potential indicators of this adrenal insufficiency disorder. Addison’s disease is a rare but serious disorder characterized by insufficient production of hormones by the adrenal glands, particularly cortisol and aldosterone. Common symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, low blood pressure, and hyperpigmentation of the skin, leading to a characteristic bronzed appearance. The condition often arises due to autoimmune issues affecting the adrenal glands or other underlying factors, requiring lifelong hormone replacement therapy for effective management.


Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great, the ninth-century King of Wessex, stands as a pivotal figure in English history, renowned for his visionary leadership and contributions to governance, education, and military strategy. Defending his kingdom against Viking invasions, Alfred demonstrated tactical brilliance, earning him the moniker “the Great.” Beyond his military prowess, Alfred’s commitment to scholarship was exemplified by his efforts to revive learning and education, commissioning translations of classical works into Old English. His legal reforms and establishment of a standardized code of laws further solidified his legacy as a wise and visionary ruler, laying the groundwork for the unification of England.

Historical scrutiny suggests that Alfred the Great likely contended with the challenges of Crohn’s disease. Delving into historical chronicles and examining the recorded symptoms, such as chronic abdominal pain and diarrhea, researchers propose that Alfred may have grappled with this inflammatory bowel disease. Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract. This condition can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, leading to a range of symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue. While the exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune system factors.


Frederic Chopin

Frederic Chopin, the virtuoso Polish composer and pianist of the Romantic era, revolutionized classical music with his exquisite compositions and exceptional piano technique. Born in 1810, Chopin’s emotive and expressive works, such as the soul-stirring Nocturnes and the virtuosic Études, captured the essence of the Romantic period, transcending cultural and national boundaries. His innovative approach to harmony and melody, coupled with his ability to infuse deep emotion into his music, left an indelible mark on the piano repertoire. Chopin’s legacy endures not only through his enduring compositions but also as a symbol of artistic individualism and passion in the realm of classical music.

For nearly a century and a half, the assumption stood unchallenged that the legendary composer succumbed to tuberculosis. However, recent historical insights are reshaping this narrative, proposing that he grappled with a respiratory affliction for the majority of his life. Marked by a persistent cough, remarkably limited exercise capacity worsened by winter, and an unusually slight physique despite his height of 5’6″, Chopin’s maladies are now reconsidered as potential manifestations of cystic fibrosis, ultimately determining the course of his life. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder characterized by the production of thick and sticky mucus that can clog the airways and digestive system. This condition is caused by mutations in the CFTR gene. Those with cystic fibrosis often experience respiratory symptoms such as chronic cough, difficulty breathing, and recurrent lung infections, as well as digestive issues due to impaired pancreatic function.

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King Herod

King Herod, the Judean ruler in the 1st century BCE, emerges as a complex historical figure known for his architectural achievements and often ruthless rule. Renowned for the expansion and renovation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, Herod’s architectural legacy showcased his grand vision. Simultaneously, his reign was marked by political intrigue, with documented accounts of his efforts to maintain power, often through controversial means such as executing family members perceived as threats.

Researchers speculate that King Herod may have grappled with chronic kidney disease, a condition inferred from descriptions of his physical ailments, including severe itching, difficulty breathing, and swollen limbs. This interpretation adds a layer of complexity to the historical narrative, suggesting that the ruler’s health struggles may have played a role in shaping the political landscape of the time. Kidney disease, also known as renal disease, encompasses a range of conditions affecting the kidneys’ function and structure. From chronic kidney disease (CKD) to acute kidney injury, these disorders can lead to complications such as fluid imbalance, electrolyte imbalances, and a buildup of waste products in the blood


Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, navigated the tumultuous era of the American Civil War, leaving a lasting mark on the nation’s history. Born in a log cabin in 1809, Lincoln rose from humble beginnings to become a towering figure known for his moral leadership and steadfast commitment to preserving the Union. His Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 declared the freedom of enslaved individuals in Confederate-held territories, aligning with his dedication to ending slavery. Lincoln’s eloquent speeches, including the iconic Gettysburg Address, reflect his ability to articulate profound ideas with simplicity. His tragic assassination in 1865 left a nation mourning the loss of a leader who had shepherded the country through its most challenging period.

Traditionally, Lincoln’s towering stature was attributed to Marfan syndrome, a connective tissue disorder. However, a fresh interpretation suggests that he might have grappled with multiple endocrine neoplasia, an uncommon hereditary condition characterized by the development of noncancerous or cancerous tumors in several endocrine glands or excessive growth without tumor formation. Multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) encompasses a group of rare genetic disorders. The genetic mutations responsible for MEN are inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, meaning that an affected individual has a 50% chance of passing the condition to their offspring.

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Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, epitomized the spirit of American progressivism and embodied the concept of the “strenuous life.” Rising to the presidency in 1901 after the assassination of William McKinley, Roosevelt was a dynamic leader known for his robust domestic policies, including trust-busting and the establishment of the U.S. Forest Service. His dedication to conservation manifested in the creation of national parks, monuments, and wildlife refuges, leaving a lasting impact on America’s environmental legacy. A Rough Rider during the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt’s adventurous spirit also extended to foreign policy, as he mediated the end of the Russo-Japanese War, earning him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906.

Theodore Roosevelt dealt with asthma throughout his life. From a young age, Roosevelt faced the challenges of this respiratory condition, experiencing frequent and severe asthma attacks. Despite the limitations imposed by asthma, he cultivated a robust and active lifestyle, advocating for outdoor activities and embracing strenuous physical pursuits. In an unusual approach to managing Theodore Roosevelt’s asthma, his doctors prescribed cigars as a remedy, believing that the smoke might alleviate his respiratory symptoms. However, this unconventional treatment likely contributed to additional health issues, as prolonged cigar smoking is now recognized as a risk factor for various respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.

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Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill shaped the course of history during critical moments of the 20th century. Born in 1874, Churchill’s political career spanned over five decades, with notable tenures as both First Lord of the Admiralty and Prime Minister. His resolute leadership during World War II, exemplified by stirring speeches and steadfast resolve, earned him global acclaim. Churchill’s unwavering commitment to Allied victory against the Axis powers solidified his legacy as a key figure in the defeat of fascism. Beyond his wartime achievements, Churchill’s eloquence, wit, and strategic vision mark him as one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century.

Embarking on a voyage through the annals of history, some scholars propose a daring hypothesis about Churchill. Moments of unparalleled energy and visionary brilliance vie for attention with shadows of melancholy and deep introspection, creating a symphony that resonates with the highs and lows of a psychological rollercoaster. Churchill’s legacy extends beyond the corridors of power, as he was not only a statesman but also a prolific writer and painter. His literary works, including historical tomes and speeches, showcase a mastery of language, while his artistic endeavors reveal a more contemplative and nuanced side to the man behind the political titan.



Born in 1475, he rose to prominence during the Italian Renaissance, contributing masterpieces such as the statue of David and the breathtaking frescoes of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Michelangelo’s meticulous attention to detail and his ability to infuse his works with profound emotion distinguished him as a visionary artist. His multifaceted talents extended beyond sculpture and painting to include architecture, poetry, and engineering. Michelangelo’s artistic legacy, characterized by a fusion of classical ideals and unparalleled innovation.

Despite his towering achievements as a renowned sculptor and artist, Michelangelo may have contended with the physical challenges of arthritis. Examining historical accounts and the artist’s personal letters, scholars propose that Michelangelo’s persistent joint pain and limitations in movement could be indicative of arthritis. This revelation adds a poignant layer to the narrative of the masterful creator of the Sistine Chapel, illustrating how even one of the greatest artists in history navigated the complexities of a physical ailment while leaving an indelible mark on the world of art.


Samuel Johnson

Born in 1709, Samuel Johnson’s most notable achievement is his monumental work, “A Dictionary of the English Language,” published in 1755. In this comprehensive lexicon, he meticulously defined and illustrated the meanings of words, providing a standard reference that influenced subsequent dictionaries. Beyond his lexicographical prowess, Johnson was a prolific essayist, poet, and critic, contributing to periodicals and engaging in literary debates of his time. His influential role in English literature earned him the title of “Doctor Johnson,” reflecting his scholarly impact and enduring legacy in the literary landscape of the 18th century.

Exploring the life of the esteemed lexicographer Samuel Johnson reveals the possibility that he contended with Tourette’s syndrome. Insights from historical records and anecdotes suggest that Johnson’s involuntary vocalizations and repetitive behaviors align with characteristics of Tourette’s. Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. These tics can range from simple, such as eye blinking or throat clearing, to complex, involving coordinated movements and vocal expressions. While the exact cause of Tourette’s is not fully understood, a combination of genetic and environmental factors is believed to contribute to its development.

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King Tut

King Tutankhamun, often referred to as King Tut, ascended to the throne of Egypt at a remarkably young age in 1332 BCE, during the 18th dynasty. His reign, though brief, left an indelible mark on history, especially after the discovery of his nearly intact tomb by Howard Carter in 1922. The treasures found within the tomb provided invaluable insights into ancient Egyptian art, culture, and royal burial practices. King Tut’s death at around 18 years old remains shrouded in mystery, with theories ranging from illness to an unfortunate accident. Despite the brevity of his rule, King Tut’s legacy endures as one of the most iconic figures of ancient Egypt.

King Tutankhamun is believed to have suffered from several health issues based on examinations of his mummified remains. Researchers have identified a complex array of conditions, including multiple fractures in his legs, a severe case of malaria, and congenital deformities in his foot. Additionally, recent studies suggest that King Tut may have had a rare genetic disorder, possibly Kohler disease, impacting the bones of his foot. These findings offer a glimpse into the health challenges that the young ruler faced during his brief reign, providing valuable insights into the medical history of ancient Egypt.

Historic UK

King Charles II

King Charles II, the 17th-century monarch of England, Scotland, and Ireland, played an important role in the restoration of the English monarchy. Following the tumultuous period of the English Civil War and the subsequent Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, Charles II’s return to the throne in 1660 marked the beginning of the Restoration era. His reign witnessed a resurgence of the arts, science, and literature, fostering a vibrant cultural climate. Charles II’s political challenges included navigating religious tensions and the Great Fire of London in 1666. Despite his personal and political complexities, his legacy as the “Merry Monarch” endures.

Historical examinations and genetic analyses suggest that King Charles II faced the challenges of multiple genetic disorders. The ruler, known as the “Merry Monarch,” is believed to have grappled with a combination of physical and mental health issues, including severe dental problems, limb deformities, and cognitive impairments. This intersection of genetic ailments sheds light on the complex interplay of royal lineages and hereditary factors, offering a unique perspective on the health struggles that influenced the course of history during Charles II’s reign.

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Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, the reclusive American poet of the 19th century, crafted a body of work that defied conventional poetic norms and explored the depths of human emotion and spirituality. Born in 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, Dickinson’s poetic brilliance emerged in the seclusion of her family home. Her unique style, marked by unconventional punctuation, short lines, and profound insights, distinguished her as a poetic trailblazer. Though she published only a handful of poems during her lifetime, posthumously, her extensive collection revealed a rich world full of verses exploring themes of death, nature, and the complexities of the human soul.

Examinations of Emily Dickinson’s health history propose that the acclaimed American poet may have suffered from Bright’s disease, a historical term encompassing various kidney disorders. Dickinson’s documented symptoms, including edema, fatigue, and fluctuating blood pressure, align with the manifestations of Bright’s disease. Named after the English physician Richard Bright, who made significant contributions to the understanding of kidney diseases in the 19th century, the term became a catch-all phrase for conditions involving inflammation and damage to the kidneys. Bright’s pioneering work laid the foundation for the study of renal disorders.


Vladimir Lenin

Vladimir Lenin, the influential Russian revolutionary and political theorist, spearheaded the Bolshevik Party’s rise to power during the tumultuous events of the Russian Revolution in 1917. Born in 1870, Lenin’s leadership culminated in the establishment of the first socialist state, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. His pivotal role in the October Revolution led to the overthrow of the Provisional Government, propelling Lenin into the forefront of Soviet politics. As the head of government, he initiated transformative policies, including the nationalization of industry and land redistribution.

Lenin, who met his demise at the age of 53 in 1924, faced a perplexing and unique health condition. Struggling with a series of strokes, Lenin came under Stalin’s care, prompting a collective quest to unravel the mystery behind his deteriorating health. Speculations ranged from poisoning to syphilis, common ailments of the era, but an autopsy following his death revealed a startling revelation—Lenin had cerebrovascular atherosclerosis, a condition that literally transformed his brain into stone, providing a morbid yet fascinating insight into the physical toll of his revolutionary endeavors.


Thomas Edison

Delving into the enigmatic brilliance of Thomas Edison, some scholars entertain the notion that the prolific inventor danced on the edges of the autism spectrum. Unraveling the threads of his life reveals a tapestry woven with unique traits—intense fixations, social complexities, and an unyielding devotion to routine—that align with the kaleidoscopic spectrum of autism. This whimsical reinterpretation invites us to envision Edison not just as an inventor but as a visionary whose idiosyncrasies may have been the colorful strokes that painted the canvas of his extraordinary mind.


Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock, the legendary British filmmaker and master of suspense, revolutionized the art of cinema with his innovative storytelling and distinctive directorial style. Born in 1899, Hitchcock’s career spanned over six decades, during which he crafted a multitude of iconic films that became synonymous with psychological thrillers. From classics like “Psycho” and “Vertigo” to “North by Northwest,” Hitchcock’s meticulous control over every aspect of filmmaking, coupled with his signature cameo appearances, earned him the title of the “Master of Suspense.” His innovative techniques, including the use of suspenseful music and groundbreaking camera angles, changed the cinematic landscape.

Hitchcock grappled with the silent struggle of chronic kidney disease. Amidst crafting cinematic masterpieces that would define the suspense genre, Hitchcock faced the challenges of a condition that impacted his health behind the scenes. Living with chronic kidney disease presents a daily challenge as individuals navigate the complexities of managing their health. The constant vigilance required to monitor fluid intake, maintain a restricted diet, and adhere to medication regimens can be emotionally and physically draining. The uncertainty of the disease’s progression and the potential need for dialysis or transplantation add an additional layer of stress.

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