Ills Of The Illustrious: Post Hoc Diagnoses Of Historical Figures

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Anonymous

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#1
West Nile Virus may have felled Alexander the Great
Dying ravens provide clue to conqueror's swift demise.
28 November 2003
HELEN PEARSON





He ruled Macedonia, crushed the Persian Empire and invaded India. But a simple infection with West Nile virus may finally have toppled Alexander the Great.

The legendary military leader died suddenly in 323 BC in the Mesopotamian city of Babylon, near current-day Baghdad. The cause of his death, aged only 32, has puzzled historians for years. Poisoning, flu and typhoid fever have all been suggested, based on records of his two-week illness.

Now epidemiologist John Marr of the Virginia Department of Health in Richmond and infectious-disease expert Charles Calisher of Colorado State University in Fort Collins have a new suggestion: West Nile fever1.

Common in Africa, West Asia and the Middle East, West Nile virus has found renewed global fame since its accidental introduction to the United States in 1999. The virus is harboured by birds and other animals and is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.

Marr and Calisher cite a passage by the Greek biographer Plutarch. "When [Alexander] arrived before the walls of [Babylon]," Plutarch recorded, "he saw a large number of ravens flying about and pecking one another, and some of them fell dead in front of him."

The ravens might have been dying of West Nile virus infection, the researchers suggest. Ravens belong to a family of birds that are particularly susceptible to the pathogen - members of the same family are responsible for the virus' spread across the United States.

Marr and Calisher tested their idea using an online diagnostic program called GIDEON (Global Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology Network). After entering Alexander's symptoms - respiratory infection, liver disorder, rash - plus the link with birds, "the answer was West Nile, 100%", says Calisher.

"It's fairly compelling," says Thomas Mather, an epidemiologist at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston. But West Nile virus tends to kill the elderly or those with weakened immune systems, he points out. "If he was so great, he might not have been bumped off by this disease," Mather says.

Case history

Alexander the Great - more properly known as Alexander III of Macedon - quashed enemies in his own kingdom before famously conquering the Persian territories of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt. He eventually built an empire that stretched west as far as Greece, east to India, and north to the Danube.


Calisher admits that Alexander's retrospective diagnosis cannot be certain. But he says that the study illustrates how important it is for doctors today to take into account the full history of a case - such as exposure to animals.


References
Marr, J.S. & Calisher, C. H. Alexander the Great and West Nile Virus. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 9, 1599 - 1603, (2003).
Link From Nature Science update
 

Mighty_Emperor

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#2
Art or ailment

I don't think this has coe up before so:

Spectacles provide clue to the secret of Turner's visual style

Maev Kennedy, arts and heritage correspondent
Tuesday November 18, 2003
The Guardian

Viewers have been puzzling over JMW Turner's singular vision of the world for over 200 years.

Now an opthalmic surgeon is suggesting that there is no mystery; Turner, suffering from early, slight colour-blindness and later cataracts, was painting exactly what he saw.

The debate over Turner's eyesight has been revived by the argument over a battered pair of Victorian spectacles, to be auctioned at Sotheby's next week. They are claimed as Turner's, but are a completely different prescription from those on view at Tate Britain.

Consultant opthalmic surgeon James McGill has been studying Turner's work for years, and sees a potential patient for surgery which could have changed the course of art history. He believes both pairs were Turner's, evidence of his deteriorating eyesight.

Three current exhibitions, in London, Birmingham and Manchester, show off Turner's blazing scarlet, gold and black night scenes, wild seas and piercing blue skies, hazes of smoke and cloud, and the Venetian paintings where solid objects dissolve into a dazzle of golden light.

The colour and light mesmerised the critic John Ruskin, and bewildered his contemporaries. The Morning Herald described it in 1829 as "colouring run mad", and the Athenaeum in 1842 sniffed: "This gentleman had, on former occasions, chosen to paint with cream, or chocolate, or currant jelly - here he uses his whole array of kitchen stuff."

Mr McGill is convinced Turner was slightly colour-blind, and this particularly affected his perception of red and blue. "The blues are all wrong, either too dark or too bright, and the reds get stronger and stronger, which is exactly what you would expect. And I have no doubt that later in life he had untreated cataracts, which would have made the centre of his field of vision very blurred, with some objects at the edges in focus - and with exactly that effect of dazzling shimmering light we see in the paintings.

"With the type of cataract which I believe Turner had, it is quite possible to see foggily through the cataract, until you are look ing directly into bright light. Then you're in trouble, because all you can see is the dazzle - and that's what we get with Turner."

The spectacles come with a broken snuff box, a tattered card box, and a magnifying glass, valued at up to £8,000 because of the Turner connection. They came from Maria Tanner, a friend of Turner's housekeeper, who may have pinched them from his studio while employed as a cleaner.

Henry Wemyss, Sotheby's expert on English watercolours, said: "The fact that they have always been described as Turner's spec tacles, and passed on from generation to generation, is suggestive. Why else would they have been kept at all?"

A rival pair of Turner spectacles, or rather two pairs packed into a box with a palette and two knives, is now on view at Tate Britain.

These may also have been snapped up from the chaos of the studio by Ruskin, the artist's executor. In 1861, he presented them to the Ashmolean museum in Oxford.

Mrs Tanner's spectacles turned out to be minus 2.5, while the Ashmolean pairs, now on loan to the Tate, are plus three and plus four. However, Mr McGill insists there is no conflict: the Tanner spectacles were an everyday pair, with the Ruskin pair used in later life for close work.

Mr McGill says his theories do not diminish Turner's genius. "The paintings are superb - but there is no mystery about why he painted that way: he was painting exactly what he saw."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/news/story/0,11711,1087441,00.html

Any other artists whos style was influenced by some kind of impairment? Monet?

Emps
 
A

Anonymous

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It was suggested that Modigliani's elongated figures were caused by an eye defect, but I don't know which.

Oooh, found a whole website on the subject - Art, Vision & the Disordered Eye.

Modigliani and others are mentionned in the bit about El Greco.
 
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sidecar_jon said:
reductionisum...and Picaso was cross eyed i sopose?
Exactly.

Doesn't really matter, does it?

One of the greatest painters of all time, anyway.
 
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Anonymous

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and the thought that painting is concerend with reproduction of what you see is silly too.
 

MrSnowman

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Blimey, I've always thought that Turner's paintings are the best depictions of reality that I've ever seen. I hope my eyes aren't on the blink :gaga:
 

Mighty_Emperor

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#8
Is trying to diagnose things at a distance interesting or a load of cobblers?

Talking of Michelangelo

Thursday May 27, 2004
The Guardian

Michelangelo may have suffered from Asperger's disorder or higher functioning autism. That's according to Muhammad Arshad, of Whiston Hospital, Prescott, Merseyside, and Michael Fitzgerald of Trinity College Dublin, who offer a retrospective diagnosis in the Journal of Medical Biography.

The painter of the Sistine Chapel, and sculptor of David and the sublime Pieta, found relationships difficult, Dr Arshad writes. "He was a loner, self-absorbed and gave his undivided attention to his masterpieces - a feature of autism." He was also "paranoid, narcissistic and schizoid".

Autopsy on indirect evidence is a favourite medical sport. In 2001, American neuroscientists diagnosed Samson, the biblical strongman, with antisocial personality disorder (he killed 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, collecting their foreskins as trophies). Doctors have killed off Herod the Great with chronic kidney disease and gangrene, identified the eye condition ocular tortiocollis in Alexander the Great, diagnosed piles in Alfred the Great, and endowed President Lincoln with Marfan syndrome.

Dr Arshad says that Michelangelo tried to control his staff, his family, money, time and "much else". His eating habits, sleep patterns and obsession with work were erratic. Medical examiners early in the last century noted his pathological fears and morbid melancholy; one expert described Michelangelo as a "depressive, schizoid, bionegative person with paranoid traces, with a homosexual tendency". If Michelangelo had Asperger's syndrome instead, he would be in good company. According to the two scientists, fellow sufferers would include the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and Isaac Newton.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/dispatch/story/0,12978,1225008,00.html
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Michelangelo 'linked' with autism

The artist Michelangelo may have had the condition Asperger's Syndrome, according to researchers.

Two experts in Asperger's, a milder form of autism, say the artist had many of the traits linked with the condition which causes social problems.

"Michelangelo was aloof and a loner," said psychiatrist Dr Muhammad Arshad, one of those involved in the research.

He added that Michelangelo's father and grandfather, as well as one of his brothers, had autistic tendencies.

Reality

The research, by Dr Arshad and Professor Michael Fitzgerald of Trinity College Dublin, was published in the Journal Of Medical Biography.

The pair describe Michelangelo, who died in 1564, as "strange, without affect, and isolated," adding that he was "preoccupied with his own private reality".

"His single-minded work routine, unusual lifestyle, limited interests, poor social and communication skills and various issues of life control appear to be features of high-functioning autism or Asperger's Syndrome."

They also compared his personality to that of Regency architect John Nash, who also lived with the condition.

Speculative

People who with Asperger's Syndrome often display talents in a particular area, such as maths or art.

According to the National Autistic Society, Dr Fitzgerald first suggested that Michelangelo may have had the condition in a book published four years ago.

He has also published theories on whether several prominent mathematicians, scientists and authors may have also had Asperger's.

"The evidence would be drawn from autobiographical accounts or other people's contemporary descriptions of their behaviour," said a spokeswoman for the society.

"However, any conclusions drawn about them at this historical remove would be speculative."

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/entertainment/3765509.stm

Published: 2004/06/01 08:59:17 GMT

© BBC MMIV
 

TheQuixote

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#10
Who was that Viking King that some historians reckon may have had Brittle Bone disease?

Somebody the Boneless or something like that?
 

TheQuixote

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In answer to myself, I found this:

In the footsteps of Ivarr the Boneless

What was really wrong with Ivarr?

What of Ivarr's nickname 'inn beinlausi' – 'boneless' or 'legless'?

Some academics have argued that it is a mistranslation of earlier texts, the phrase 'inn barnlausi' ('the childless one') becoming 'inn beinlausi', or the Latin adjective exosus ('hating' or 'hateful') being misread or misheard as exos ('boneless'). It has also been viewed as a possible allusion to Ivarr's impotence, or as a reference to snakes (his family was strongly associated with snakes in the Norse tradition).

A new diagnosis

However, one suggestion has been all but ignored since it was first raised in 1949. In his book Osteogenesis imperfecta: A study of clinical features and heredity based on 55 Danish families, Knud Seedorf wrote:

Of historical personages the author knows of only one of whom we have a vague suspicion that he suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta, namely Ivar Benløs, eldest son of the Danish legendary king Regnar Lodbrog. He is reported to have had legs as soft as cartilage ('he lacked bones'), so that he was unable to walk and had to be carried about on a shield.

The medical diagnosis of osteogenesis imperfecta – more commonly known as brittle bone disease – sits uncomfortably with the accepted image of the Viking warrior. It suggests that the man who led the great heathen invasion of the British Isles – perhaps the most successful of all Viking leaders – was, in fact, disabled, unable even to walk. However, there is an abundance of evidence in the sagas that supports Seedorf's conclusion, but until now it has been resolutely ignored.

Disease or abuse?

The term osteogenesis imperfecta – or brittle bone disease – covers a range of conditions characterised by abnormal brittleness of bones. This is caused by a genetic defect in the development of the connective tissue that forms the basic material of bone. The fragile bones are unusually susceptible to fractures.

Severely infected babies, born with multiple fractures and a soft skull, do not usually survive. Those who do may suffer many fractures during infancy and childhood, often caused by only minimal force. Doctors investigating these may find it difficult to determine whether the cause is osteogenesis imperfecta or child abuse.

The fractures usually heal quickly, but may cause severe shortening and deformity of the limbs, resulting in stunted, abnormal growth.

Upper-body strength

For many, stories of Ivarr's extraordinary upper-body strength have been enough to contradict the theory that he suffered from brittle bones. How could somebody with the condition display such strength in their arms? But according to Dr Colin Paterson, founder of the Brittle Bone Society (see below), it is not unusual for only the bones in the thighs and legs to be brittle and weak – arms are often left unaffected. Sufferers of the disability can display tremendous upper-body strength.

Moreover, the less extreme forms of osteogenesis imperfecta (types 1 and 4) do not necessarily result in physical deformity. It is perfectly possible for sufferers to appear to be of normal or slightly reduced height, and simply lack the use of their legs, as in the case of Ivarr inn beinlausi.
http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/H/history/heads/footnotes/ivarr01a.html
 

Mighty_Emperor

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#12
What Asperger's syndrome has done for us

By Megan Lane
BBC News Online Magazine

Michelangelo might have had it. So, too, may Einstein, Socrates and Jane Austen. All are claimed to have had Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. What is it about this developmental disorder that can lead to genius?

We will never know for sure if the genius of past greats may have been a symptom of a form of autism.

Informed speculation that Michelangelo might have had Asperger's syndrome is just that - the Renaissance artist was never diagnosed in his lifetime. Indeed, Asperger's was only identified as a separate condition in 1944, and not until the mid-90s that it was a clinical diagnosis.

Instead, two medical experts have drawn this conclusion from studying contemporary accounts of the artist's behaviour - his single-minded work routine, few friends and obsessional nature - and comparing it with traits displayed by adults who have been diagnosed today.

It's a theory which has been rubbished by art historians, but which has piqued the interest of Eileen Hopkins, of the National Autistic Society. The artist's meticulously observed figures and high work rate resonate with such a diagnosis.

WHAT IS AUTISM?
A complex, lifelong developmental disability
It involves a biological or organic defect in brain function
Autism (including Asperger's) is said to affect about 500,000 people in the UK today
"This reflects the positive side of this gene, that people with it can contribute in many ways. Being single-minded, it gives them the chance to focus on something which interests them. Their talents are not diluted by the everyday interactions that take up so much time for the rest of us."

The same posthumous diagnosis has been made of other historical figures, among them the scientists Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Marie Curie, politician Eamon de Valera, poet WB Yeats and Pop Art giant Andy Warhol.

Attention to detail

What is the link between this condition and creativity, be it in the arts or sciences?

Professor Michael Fitzgerald, of Dublin's Trinity College, one of the experts who posed the Michelangelo theory, says it makes people more creative.

"People with it are generally hyper-focused, very persistent workaholics who tend to see things from detail to global rather than looking at the bigger picture first and then working backwards, as most people do."

But Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, of Cambridge University, says it is more accurate to describe this creativity as "systemising" - a strong drive to analyse detail.

"This might be in mathematics, machines, natural phenomena or anatomy, to identify rules that govern a system and any variations in that system."

While those whose strength lies in rational analysis are by no means exclusively male, it is described as a male brain trait compared with the so-called female ability to empathise - a characteristic weak spot for those with Asperger's.

"The condition does tend to affect men more than women, especially among those who are high-functioning. Males outnumber females nine to one in this diagnosis," he says.

DEFINING TRAITS INCLUDE:
Find social situations confusing
Hard to make small talk
Good at picking up details and facts
Hard to work out what others think and feel
Can focus for very long periods
Source: Cambridge Lifespan Asperger Syndrome Service
Thus it is thought possible that some maths and physics experts, far from being bright but anti-social misfits, may actually have had Asperger's. One whom Mr Baron-Cohen has helped diagnose is the British mathematician Richard Borcherds, the 1998 winner of the Field's Medal - the Nobel Prize of the maths world.

The naturalist and TV presenter David Bellamy mentions in his autobiography that although undiagnosed, he believes he has a form of autism. And Microsoft boss Bill Gates' personality quirks have been compared to those of an autistic.

"This goes to show that people who get by without a diagnosis have found a niche where they can use their skills to make a contribution. This need not be dramatic - perhaps they are a very methodical worker, who understands the rules of their chosen profession," says Mr Baron-Cohen.

On a lighter note, fictional characters said to display characteristics of those with Asperger's include Mr Spock, Lisa Simpson, Mr Bean and Cliff from Cheers. And one of the school boys in Grange Hill, Martin Miller, has the condition and so has gotten into difficulty after taking a mate's advice on girls too literally.

"Mr Spock is an extreme example of someone driven by logic and systemising, but who has no interest in the feelings of others," says Mr Baron-Cohen. "But he is very much a caricature."

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/3766697.stm

Published: 2004/06/02 12:22:45 GMT

© BBC MMIV
Is Aspergers genetic as the above sounds distinctly like my grandfather and two uncles (and me to a lesser degree ;) )?

Emps
 

PeniG

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#13
Jane Austen with Asperger's? Are they mad? I doubt you could be a successful novelist with that particular disorder - you have to understand people to write about them the way she did.

One thing I've noticed about all the people I've known with some sort of clinical diagnosis - paranoia, depression, anxiety, ADD, whatever - is that the traits they have are traits that I and many other people exhibit too, only the person with a clinical disorder has them to an extreme degree that interferes with living. Everyone gets wired; ADD people are continually, perpetually, unrelentingly wired. Everyone prefers to shift blame away from themselves and create order out of chaos; a paranoid cannot interpret any event without blaming outside forces and weaving them into a complex self-centered fantasy. And so on.

So from my point of view, there are two problems with retrospective diagnosis: one is that people are diagnosing for folks they never met, and the other is that they are looking for signs of pathology in successful people. It strikes me as a dangerous sort of game. People are not labels and personalities are not syndromes. It may be illuminating if played by strict rules; but people who play it should make it crystal clear in interviews that it is only a game.
 

sunsplash1

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#14
Peni said:
...So from my point of view, there are two problems with retrospective diagnosis: one is that people are diagnosing for folks they never met, and the other is that they are looking for signs of pathology in successful people. It strikes me as a dangerous sort of game. People are not labels and personalities are not syndromes. It may be illuminating if played by strict rules; but people who play it should make it crystal clear in interviews that it is only a game.
Quite so.
Traits are just that. Trait theory is bullsh*t science.
:eek!!!!:
 

Mighty_Emperor

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#15
It may be that your geniuses have more mental problems than normal people but being able to diagnose specific disorders over rgeat reaches of time seems unlikely:

Psychiatric News June 4, 2004
Volume 39 Number 11
© 2004 American Psychiatric Association
p. 36

Clinical & Research News

In Families With Psychosis, The Numbers Tell a Story

Joan Arehart-Treichel

Is there any link between math talent and mental illness? A researcher in Iceland finds that the incidence of psychosis is greater than expected among mathematical scholars.

Several years ago, the book and movie "A Beautiful Mind" made quite a splash. They had to do with the life of mathematical genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash. One could get the impression from both the book and movie that it was purely coincidental that Nash, a math genius, developed schizophrenia. But maybe it was more than chance, a new study suggests.



Above is a still from the movie "A Beautiful Mind" about John Nash, a math genius who had schizophrenia. Nash illustrates what an Icelandic psychiatrist has now found—that there may be a link between psychosis and math talent.

The study, conducted by Jon Karlsson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Institute of Genetics in Reykjavik, Iceland, has found an intriguing relationship between math talent and psychosis susceptibility in the Icelandic population. Results were published in the April British Journal of Psychiatry.

"I know of no other quantitative study demonstrating a link of psychosis to mathematical ability," Karlsson told Psychiatric News.

Lynn DeLisi, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at New York University, agreed, saying, "I don't know of any other study that has suggested that mathematical abilities are higher in families with psychosis— so this is very interesting."

There is ample evidence of an increased risk of mental illness among highly creative persons and their relatives. Few such studies, however, have been conducted to determine whether extremely successful scholars might also be at such an increased risk. Karlsson thus viewed the stability of the Icelandic population and the excellent demographic records in Iceland as a unique opportunity to see whether there might be an increased risk of mental illness—specifically of hospital-treated psychosis—in scholars and their first-degree relatives.

In his first analysis, he focused on 180 young men who had been top graduates of two Icelandic university preparatory schools, one in Reykjavik and one in Akureyri, between 1871 and 1960, as well as on 1,016 of their first-degree relatives.

He then attempted to see whether their risk of psychosis was significantly greater than what would have been expected if their risk equaled that of the general Icelandic population, and the answer was yes.

The top 180 male graduates were expected to have one instance of hospital-treated psychosis if their risk equaled that of the general population; the observed number was four (all cases of schizophrenia). Their 1,016 first-degree relatives should have included eight cases of psychosis; the observed total was 22 (eight schizophrenia and 14 affective disorder).

These results, Karlsson wrote, "leave little doubt that the altered levels of brain activity seemingly associated with risk of psychosis can lead to superior performance in academic settings.... Most of the individuals surveyed here lived in the period before the educational emphasis shifted to mathematics and science, but even in college subjects covered a century ago, an increase in psychosis was apparent among the gifted students."

In a second analysis, Karlsson attempted to get a better idea of whether it is top academic performers in all areas, or only top academic performers in some areas, who are at increased risk of psychosis.

This time he focused on 338 first-degree relatives of 90 top male humanities scholars in Reykjavik College from 1931 to 1960; 347 first-degree relatives of 90 top female humanities scholars in the college during those years; 339 first-degree relatives of 90 top male math scholars in the college during those years; and 349 first-degree relatives of 83 top female math scholars in the college during those years.

He then assessed whether the incidence of hospital-based psychosis in the first-degree relatives of the top humanities performers was significantly greater than what would have been expected for them if their risk equaled that of the general population. He found that it wasn't. He then attempted to see whether the incidence of hospital-treated psychosis in the first-degree relatives of the top math performers was significantly greater than what would have been expected for them. The answer was yes. There were seven cases of psychosis among relatives of top male math performers, compared with an expected rate of only three cases, and there were 10 cases of psychosis among the relatives of the top female math performers, compared to an expected rate of only three cases.

Thus, "the risk of psychosis does not seem to appear in groups preparing for careers in languages, literature, and jurisprudence, for example," Karlsson wrote in his study report, "but is more definitive in those headed for science or mathematics."

Then, in his third and final analysis, Karlsson decided to further explore what appeared to be a relationship between math talent and psychosis risk. He evaluated the risk of hospital-based psychosis in 90 male students who distinguished themselves as the highest performers on the written final math test at Reykjavik College from 1930 to 1960—young men preparing for careers in math, physics, chemistry, astronomy, engineering, architecture, and medicine—as well as in 365 of their first-degree relatives. He found that the risk of hospital-based psychosis was significantly greater in the whole group than expected if their risk equaled that of the general Icelandic population. Instead of the expected four instances of psychosis in the whole group there were 11 instances— four of schizophrenia and seven of affective disorder.

So it looks as though there may be a relationship between math talent and a risk of psychosis, Karlsson concluded.

"Psychotic disorders," he suggested, "might be associated with some favorable effect, as this would explain their surprisingly high frequency in all human populations. Geneticists refer to such systems as balanced polymorphisms, mutant genes tending to exist at unexpectedly high levels if their heterozygous carriers benefit in some manner from the phenomenon...."

Although DeLisi admitted to Psychiatric News that she found the results of Karlsson's study intriguing, she said that she would nonetheless be cautious about them "because the diagnoses were only through records, and I suspect that many cases he was calling schizophrenia were really bipolar affective disorder.... I would also like to see pedigrees and how the co-transmission of these traits occurs, but we don't see it at all. I also think that some further careful studies need to be done to attempt to replicate these findings before people make too much out of them."

No external funding was provided for the study.

An abstract of the study, "Psychosis and Academic Performance," is posted online at <http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/abstract/184/4/327>.

The British Journal of Psychiatry 2004 184 327
link
 

RainyOcean

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#16
Jane Austen with Asperger's? Are they mad? I doubt you could be a successful novelist with that particular disorder - you have to understand people to write about them the way she did.
Hey, I would just like to point out that people with asperger's tend to be really good at reading and writing and basically just language in general. Also, just because a person has asperger's does not mean they don't understand people; they are people. They can have trouble understanding people when talking to them, but they have thoughts and feelings and stuff just like everyone else.
 
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#17
Quixote said:
In answer to myself, I found this:

In the footsteps of Ivarr the Boneless

What was really wrong with Ivarr?

What of Ivarr's nickname 'inn beinlausi' – 'boneless' or 'legless'?

Some academics have argued that it is a mistranslation of earlier texts, the phrase 'inn barnlausi' ('the childless one') becoming 'inn beinlausi', or the Latin adjective exosus ('hating' or 'hateful') being misread or misheard as exos ('boneless'). It has also been viewed as a possible allusion to Ivarr's impotence, or as a reference to snakes (his family was strongly associated with snakes in the Norse tradition).
http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/H/history/heads/footnotes/ivarr01a.html
Good find I just watched "The Strangest Viking" on Discovery and it is certainly an interesting theory, although only one 'expert' agreed with him, and I'm glad to see that in the end he had satisfied himself about the explanation although he wasn't going to go as far as dogmatically saying he thought he was right (a nice Fortean touch ;) ).

Emps
 

fluffle9

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#19
Emperor said:
Good find I just watched "The Strangest Viking" on Discovery and it is certainly an interesting theory, although only one 'expert' agreed with him, and I'm glad to see that in the end he had satisfied himself about the explanation although he wasn't going to go as far as dogmatically saying he thought he was right (a nice Fortean touch ;) ).

i saw that. now normally i think that retrospective diagnosis is pretty daft, but i think that this guy's probably right that ivarr had some kind of disability. also, while most retrospective diagnoses can never be proven, at least were we to discover the grave of an important viking man with brittle bone disease, we'd know that the theory about ivarr was probably correct.

the argument against it claims that the descriptions of ivarr's "bonelessness" in the viking sagas are "embellishment", but that is not the sort of embellishment which usually takes place in stories. common embellishments (of people on the side of good, like ivarr would have been portrayed in the sagas) are things like people coming to be described as giants (eg king arthur), or divine (eg helen of troy), or extremely beautiful (eg cleopatra).. i know of few folktales which have grown over time to include deformaty or disability of well-liked characters, and it seems that there exist particularly detailed descriptions of his condition.

as for the thing Quixote posted about mistranslations of his name, it seems to be clutching at straws a bit given that they can't even say for sure which language the mistranslation occurred from.
 

TheQuixote

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#20
Retrospective Diagnosis Says Lenin Had Syphilis

By C.J. Chivers
New York Times Service

Whispers have circulated for decades that Vladimir Lenin was afflicted with syphilis throughout his career. Now a new study turns that speculation into a retrospective diagnosis.

In an article this month in The European Journal of Neurology, three Israeli physicians sift through historical references to build what they regard as a probable diagnosis that Lenin contracted the sexually transmitted disease in Europe years before he led the 1917 Revolution. Not long after the socialists' victory, the authors write, the illness strengthened its grip, leading to an agonizing decline and, in 1924, his death.

The idea is not entirely new. Despite the former Soviet Union's efforts to preserve a near theology around its central political figure, Lenin was long rumored to have suffered from the disease. The new thesis is not so much a breakthrough as a historical rumor revived and reframed.

To do so, the authors quote the journals of doctors who treated Lenin in Europe and the Soviet Union and review materials related to his medical condition and autopsy, which they suggest was a propaganda job.

They ask a question of enduring importance to civic life. Do modern societies know enough about the health of their political leaders? In Lenin's case, they strive to show, the answer is a resounding no.

"If you take Lenin's case and you cancel Lenin's name on the file and you give it to a neurologist who is an expert in infectious disease, the expert will say, 'Syphilis,'" said Vladimir Lerner, head of the psychiatry department at the Beer Sheva Mental Health Center in Israel and an author of the study.

Reviews have been mixed. Some scholars of the early Soviet period are skeptical, saying the talk of syphilis circulated for decades, to little effect. "There has been a vague rumor of this," said Robert Conquest, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. "But of course in Russia, as you know, you have rumors about most everything."

Gregory Freeze, a professor of history at Brandeis, was direct. "They don't have the smoking gun," he said.

The study's authors concede this point but insist that they have a strong circumstantial case. They also propose a possible way to settle the question, further testing of Lenin's brain material, which is stored in Moscow.

"'Skeptical' is a healthy position," said another author of the study, Eliezer Witztum, a professor of psychiatry at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. "But the point is that there are a lot of medical questions that have to be answered."

Lenin was 53 when he died, after battling an erratic but progressively debilitating illness. His death has been variously attributed to cerebral hemorrhage, stroke, syphilis, exhaustion or cerebral arteriosclerosis, which had killed his father. The difficulty with a diagnosis of syphilis is that the symptoms are common to other ailments, so much so that it is called "the great imitator."

The infection, caused by a bacterium called the Treponema spirochete, first appears as an ulcerous sore, from which it spreads throughout the body, including the brain. Fever, an extensive rash and malaise typically follow. After initial infection, a syphilitic can spend years alternating between bouts of illness and apparently fine health. When they occur, symptoms can be severe, including headaches, nervous disorders and gastrointestinal, muscle or joint pain.

In late stages, often 20 or more years after infection, the victim can experience mood swings and bursts of creativity, as well as depression, lethargy and dementia. Cardiovascular damage can lead to paralysis, aneurysm or stroke. Until the advent of therapeutic penicillin in World War II, the disease was incurable.

Lenin's illness at least mimicked the progression of syphilis, afflicting him for months with occasional seizures and excruciating headaches, as well as bouts of nausea, sleeplessness and partial paralysis. As Josef Stalin plotted for control of the Communist Party, Lenin was alternately lucid and incapacitated. Sometimes he was unable to walk without assistance or to speak.

The worst spells were horrific. According to "Lenin: A Biography," by Robert Service, professor of Russian history at St. Anthony's College, Oxford, he twice asked for poison with which he might end his life, remarkable requests from a man whose name was synonymous with struggle.

Communist Party orthodoxy required suppression of the deterioration, and many details were kept secret. But time has unlocked some of the confidences, and the authors combed the disparate evidence, some from archives available only after the collapse of communism, to render their diagnosis.

Among the supporters of their conclusion is Deborah Hayden, author of "Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis."

"A number of Lenin biographers have reported that the doctors attending him at his death suspected syphilis, but until this article no one has pulled the relevant information together in one place," Hayden wrote in an e-mail message. "The authors argue convincingly that Lenin was suffering from meningovascular syphilis on his deathbed."

Hayden said she was impressed by evidence that prominent syphilis specialists examined Lenin. And she noted that in previous work, listed in the footnotes, the authors found that Lenin was briefly treated with salvarsan, a drug that was used specifically to combat the disease. Salvarsan had powerful side effects. In a telephone interview, Hayden said there would be no reason but syphilis to give it to him.

Frances Bernstein, an assistant professor at Drew University who specializes in sexuality and public health in the Soviet period, also called the theory plausible. "I think the science does support, or could support, a diagnosis of syphilis," she said.

Bernstein pointed to a potentially curious context. Venereal disease was an acute problem under the tsars. After the Revolution, the Soviet Health Ministry reversed the imperial position of suppressing sex education and launched a campaign to treat syphilitics and ease the stigma of the disease.

In light of that campaign, Bernstein said, "it would have been the height of irony if Lenin died of syphilis."

Disagreement over the merits of the theory seems unlikely to end soon.

Freeze found two factual errors in the article that he said undermined its credibility. Lenin survived an assassination attempt in 1918, not 1919, as the authors wrote, and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, not 1992. (Witztum said the errors came from sources quoted in the study.)

Freeze also described Lenin as a dynamo of activity in the years after the Revolution and added, "The massive amount of documents he wrote in that period do not suggest a man who was suffering from syphilis."

Hayden said that many syphilitics did not lapse into full paralysis or dementia and that some experienced intense periods of creativity not long before dying.

"People think that if you have syphilis you get to be feeble minded, but the opposite is true," she said.

Although Lenin's stature has been eroded by the terror he relied on to build the Soviet state and by its eventual collapse, he remains a colossus. Eight decades after his death, his corpse still lies in state outside the Kremlin.

Importantly, for those seeking an answer to the syphilis question, his brain tissue remains at the Moscow Institute of the Brain, where in early Soviet times it was sliced into wafers in an effort to find anatomical explanations for genius.

The authors end their article by suggesting that an examination of the tissue might find the DNA of syphilis and yield a definitive answer. Freeze said he would support a conclusive test. "That would settle it," he said.

But like much of the discussion, the suggestion is subject to disagreement. A representative of the brain institute declined to discuss syphilis last week, other than to say the theory had been reviewed in the past and proved wrong.

Hayden also cautioned that even if tests were conducted, the results might not close the case. In late-stage syphilis, she said, the spirochete was not always found in the brain.
The Moscow Times.com
 
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#21
Lenin with syphilis and now this:

Dementia has dictated our history

The course of history might have been very different if some of the world's past leaders and dictators had seen a psychiatrists, according to doctors.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr George El-Nimr said World War II might not have happened if past US president Woodrow Wilson had bowed down to his dementia.

Stalin and Franklin D Roosevelt most probably had dementia too, he said.

Dr El-Nimr and colleagues spoke at the Royal College of Psychiatrists' annual conference in Harrogate.

Dr El-Nimr, from Haywood Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent, and his colleagues Dr Baseem Habeeb, at Mersey NHS Trust, and Dr Emad Sulib, senior lecturer in psychiatry at Liverpool University, looked at the possible impact dementia may have had on seven world leaders.

Early detection and treatment of this could have benefited the future of those countries and even the world
Lead researcher Dr El-Nimr
Millions of Russians might have been saved from death if the dictator Stalin had seen a psychiatrist, they believe.

They told doctors attending the conference that Stalin's behaviour could easily be explained by dementia following a series of strokes.

"This might be an explanation for the florid paranoia, dimming of superior intellect and the unleashing of his most sadistic personality traits," said Dr El-Nimr.

He said Franklin D Roosevelt's dementia might have impaired negotiations with Stalin at Yalta at the end of World War II in 1945.

Peace not war

World War II might never have happened if the US president around the time of the end of World War I, Woodrow Wilson, had stepped down after developing dementia, the researchers suggest.

It might then have been possible to persuade Congress to ratify the Versailles Treaty, which, in turn, would have led to the US embracing the League of Nations and possibly have averted the war, they said.

Dr El-Nimr said the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson as an example of the best case scenario.

The shock resignation of Harold Wilson in 1976 was down to his "remarkable awareness" a year earlier of his cognitive deterioration, said Dr El-Nimr.

According to the researchers, other leaders who developed dementia include Urho Kekkonen of Finland and British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald.

"It was obvious that some had what we call dementia," said Dr El-Nirm.

"It's not only to do with memory, it is to do with things like decision making, prioritising and sense of direction as well.

"If these have been affected this can obviously effect people's decisions, even in the early stages of dementia," he said.

He said people with high intellectual function before they get dementia might function well for longer and people might not notice, but their condition would still affect their performance at work.

"Early detection and treatment of this could have benefited the future of those countries and even the world," he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/health/3873339.stm

Published: 2004/07/07 13:30:40 GMT

© BBC MMIV
I think we are all pretty agreed that Stalin was bonkers but going any further than that seems unwise. I would have suggested he was paranoid/delusional.

Emps
 

TheQuixote

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#22

King George III: Mad or misunderstood?

Last year a remarkable exhibit came to light. Hidden in the vaults of a London museum was a scrap of paper containing a few strands of hair.


The paper was crudely fashioned into an envelope but the words on it immediately caused a stir: "Hair of His Late Majesty, King George 3rd."

For Professor Martin Warren, it was the clue that would help him finally solve the mystery of King George's illness. His investigation is featured in a BBC documentary, Medical Mysteries.

"King George is largely remembered for those periods when he lost his mind. But it's been difficult to explain these attacks, so I was keen to analyse this hair sample," said Professor Warren.

When the hair was tested by the Harwell International Business Centre for Science & Technology in Didcot, Oxfordshire, the results were surprising.

The king's hair was laden with arsenic. It contained over 300 times the toxic level.

"This level is way above anything we were expecting - it's taken us completely by surprise."

More detective work

Far from being an answer, this remarkable finding was just the start of Warren's detective work.

In King George's time, his bizarre behaviour and wild outbursts were treated as insanity.

He was bound in a straight-jacket and chained to a chair to control his ravings. King George was officially mad.

It wasn't until the 1970s that a new and controversial diagnosis was made.

Two psychiatrists - Ida MacAlpine and her son Richard Hunter - revisited the king's medical records and noticed a key symptom; dark red urine - a classic and unmistakable sign of a rare blood disorder called porphyria.

Porphyria can be a devastating disease. In the acute form, it can cause severe abdominal pain, cramps, and even seizure-like epileptic fits.

Misdiagnosed

It is frequently misdiagnosed, and even in modern times, some sufferers have been thought to be mentally ill.

Pauline Bradshaw was 40 when she was finally diagnosed with acute porphyria.

"I was very confused and frightened, because I didn't know why I was feeling so bad," she said.

"Every day was this battle, you know, feeling sick and dizzy not knowing what was wrong or what was causing it."

For years her GP put her symptoms down to depression and prescribed anti-depressants, but when a relative wrote to say she had been diagnosed with acute porphyria, Pauline's symptoms fell into place.

Since then, with support from the British Porphyria Association, she has learnt how to live with this incurable condition.

One of the great mysteries of King George's porphyria was the severity of his attacks.

It is rare for men to suffer this acute form at all - normally males show no symptoms.

And - a final puzzle - King George didn't have any attacks before his 50s.

Arsenic to blame?

Professor Warren knew that porphyria attacks can be triggered by a wide range of substances - alcohol, common medication, even monthly hormones. Perhaps arsenic could also be a trigger.

He contacted Professor Tim Cox, an expert on extreme cases of porphyria at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge.

Professor Cox confirmed his guess - arsenic was listed as a trigger. And the massive levels found in King Georges hair suggested that the arsenic had been liberally ingested over a long period of time.

The two professors began poring over the King's medical records preserved in the Royal archive at Windsor.

There was passing reference to arsenic used as a skin cream, and as wig powder, but nothing that could explain the staggering levels of arsenic showing up in the king's hair.

The most common medication he was given was James' powders, a routine medicine he was being given several times a day - made of a substance called antimony.

Final clue

Tracking down James' powders at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Warren found the final piece of the puzzle in a 19th century almanac.

Antimony, even when purified, contains significant traces of arsenic.

The arsenic from the very medication he was being given to control his 'madness' was triggering more attacks.

His porphyric attacks had been brought on after a lifetime's arsenic accumulated in his body, and then were made much more prolonged and more severe by the medicine to treat him.

For professor it is the end of a long trail.

"It is a very convincing explanation of the king's attacks, and could account for why he had them at such a late stage in life and why they were so severe.

"So in that sense, yes, it's very satisfying."

For more details about porphyria contact the British Porphyria Association on 01474 369 231. Email: [email protected]

Medical Mysteries: George III - Mad or Misunderstood? is broadcast on BBC One on Wednesday 14 July at 2235 BST.


BBCi News 13/07/04
 
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#23
Another report on Lenin's syphilis:

Soviet Icon Lenin Died of Syphilis-Experts Say

Tue Jul 20, 9:09 AM ET

By Megan Goldin

BEERSHEBA, Israel (Reuters) - There were whispers in the Kremlin and salons of Europe for decades but it was never more than idle gossip until a team of Israeli doctors announced that they had solved an 80-year-old medical mystery.

The posthumous diagnosis by two psychiatrists and a neurologist recently published in the European Journal of Neurology was that the great Russian revolutionary and Soviet icon Vladimir Lenin died an agonizing death from syphilis.

"It's an amazing story, the degeneration of Lenin's mental and neurological state," said psychiatrist Dr Eliezer Witztum.

The doctors' diagnosis of crippling neurosyphilis that caused massive brain damage and dementia in Lenin in the last two years of his life is more than a historical curiosity that sullies the image of the founder of the Soviet Union.

The disease and a decades-long cover-up by the Soviet authorities, who turned Lenin into the deity of their fledgling state, highlights the danger of hiding the mental health of leaders who hold the fate of millions in their hands, the doctors said.

"His (Lenin's) private business affected the lives of millions because of his illness, his inability to lead the country at a crucial time," said Yoram Finkelstein, head of diagnostic neurology at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek hospital.

"It was a time of chaos and there was a power vacuum which was unfortunately filled by Stalin."

The retrospective diagnosis was reached using documents released after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union -- Lenin's medical chart, autopsy results and memoirs by physicians who treated Lenin and were sworn to silence after his death in 1924.

"The symptoms are compatible with syphilis as are the mental changes which preceded the overt disease," said Finkelstein.

SOVIET COVER-UP?

The official cause given for Lenin's death was cerebral arteriosclerosis, but only eight of the 27 physicians who treated him and were at his autopsy signed that report.

His two personal physicians refused to sign. Dr Vladimir Lerner, a Moscow-born psychiatrist at Israel's Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, thinks he knows why.

As a young psychiatrist in Moscow, he worked with the son of Lenin's chief physician who confided that his father once told him that as many as eight autopsy reports had been drawn up with a different cause for Lenin's death in each. One cited syphilis.

Proving Lenin died of syphilis was complex as the sexually transmitted micro organism -- which was rampant and incurable in Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries -- was frequently mistaken for other neurological illnesses.

"Syphilis is often called the great imitator because it imitates so many diseases," explained Lerner, before reeling off a list of evidence that he said pointed to a high degree of certainty to neurosyphilis as the cause of Lenin's death.

Perhaps the most explosive evidence is a decision by a committee of physicians including syphilis experts to prescribe the drug Salvarsan to treat the ailing Lenin in 1922.

Salvarsan, a potent drug from arsenic with agonizing side effects, was used only to treat syphilis, the doctors said.




Their suspicions of a cover-up were fueled by censored medical records coupled with Soviet documents that reveal the Commissar of Health instructed the chief pathologist to put forth "evidence" that Lenin did not die of syphilis.

Blood tests which were taken frequently and would have proved conclusively that Lenin had syphilis are missing from his medical chart, while the results of far less accurate urine and lumbar puncture tests are still in the file.

"There is no direct proof because of the lack of blood tests. Why did they disappear?" asked Lerner. "Why are there urine and lumbar tests which were taken infrequently but the results of blood test which they conducted often have vanished?"

Other evidence included consultations by a renowned syphilis expert who once gave a cryptic hint when asked about Lenin's illness: "Everyone knows for which brain disorder I am called."

LENIN'S CRIPPLING ILLNESS

In addition, the doctors studied the changes to Lenin's personality several years before he became obviously ill. It can take 10 to 20 years from the time syphilis is contracted for the disease to reach the brain.

Before the revolution, Lenin began to find the sound of loud noise unbearable. His associates wrote in memoirs that he became quick-tempered, irritable and sometimes lost self control.

Lenin's brain, preserved at an institute in Moscow, might furnish the final proof, but the doctors doubt Russian officials will ever allow independent scholars to study tissue samples.
Source
 

TheQuixote

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#24
Napoleon 'killed by his doctors'

Over-enthusiastic medics - not cancer or murder - may have caused Napoleon Bonaparte's death, researchers suggest.
Researchers from the San Francisco Medical Examiner's Department outline their theory for the French Emperor's demise in New Scientist magazine.

They say doctors killed Napoleon through over-zealous treatment.

Napoleon died aged 52 in 1821, on the island of St Helena in the south Atlantic where he had been banished after his defeat at Waterloo.

It's not as sexy as the idea that he was murdered.

Dr Steven Karch, San Francisco Medical Examiner's Department
Most historians accept the official explanation that Napoleon died from stomach cancer.

This was the verdict of an autopsy carried out after his death by his personal physician Francesco Antommarchi and witnessed by five other doctors.

Stomach cancer had also killed Napoleon's father.

But doubts were raised in 2001 when French forensic specialists said tests on Napoleon's hair suggested a "major exposure to arsenic".

It was suggested that the British governor of St Helena, Hudson Lowe, conspired with French count Charles de Montholon to assassinate Napoleon

'Heart condition?'

This new theory from the US scientists says arsenic clears the two suspects. It says exposure to the poison from coal smoke and other environmental sources could have been a factor in Napoleon's death.

But they say it is more likely that it was the treatments given to Napoleon in an attempt to cure him that actually killed him.

He was given regular doses of antimony potassium tartrate, or tartar emetic a poisonous colourless salt which was used to make him vomit. He was also given regular enemas.

The researchers, led by forensic pathologist Steven Karch, say this would have caused a serious potassium deficiency, which can lead to a potentially fatal heart condition called Torsades de Pointes in which rapid heartbeats disrupt blood flow to the brain.

They say the final straw is likely to have been a 600 milligram dose of mercuric chloride, given as a purge to clear the intestines two days before his death.

This was five times the normal dose, and would have depleted his potassium levels still further, they say.

Dr Karch told BBC News Online he came to his conclusions after looking at modern cases where treatments had led patients to develop a potassium deficiency, and then Torsades de Pointes.

He said: "There is a very strong argument for this - but it's not as sexy as the idea that he was murdered.

"The arsenic wasn't killing him - his doctors did him in!"

However Phil Corso, a retired Connecticut doctor, who advocates the cancer theory, told New Scientist: "It's really far-fetched when you think about it. He said Napoleon had clearly been sick for some time and would have died from his tumour, regardless of the treatment meted out to him by doctors.


BBCi News 22/07/04
 
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#25
A nice little overview:

Can we be sure that Lenin died of syphilis?

Tim Radford
Thursday July 22, 2004
The Guardian

No, we can't. In the latest round in the medical profession's favourite after-dinner sport - diagnosis long after death - three Israeli doctors have proposed in the European Journal of Neurology that Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, also know as Lenin, architect of the Russian Revolution, died in the Kremlin of syphilis.

Evidence that the lethal spirochetes had colonised his brain is circumstantial, but intriguing. In his last years, Lenin suffered short episodes of loss of consciousness, numbness of the right hand, throbbing headaches, sleeplessness, hallucinations, loss of appetite and epileptic seizures. His death certificate officially declared that he died of cerebral atherosclerosis, although Lenin's two personal physicians refused to sign it.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can end in madness and death after an interval of decades. In 1895, Lenin checked into a Swiss clinic for two weeks for undisclosed reasons. He was treated in Russia by a German specialist in syphilis who said, cryptically, on his return: "Everyone knows for which brain disorder I am called"; and he was treated in 1922 with the arsenic-based drug Salvarsan, which was used only for syphilis.

So Lenin joins a growing list of long-dead celebrities to be given a posthumous diagnosis based on anecdotal evidence. In the past decade or so, enthusiastic diagnosticians have saddled Herod the Great with chronic kidney disease and gangrene; Mozart variously with tuberculosis, meningitis, uraemia and even Tourette's syndrome and Alexander the Great with Brown's syndrome of the left eye. Poor Vincent van Gogh has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, lead poisoning, tinnitus, syphilis, attention deficit disorder, Asperger's syndrome and porphyria.

The biblical hero Samson - who is said to have slaughtered Philistines with the jawbone of an ass and torched cornfields by setting alight the tails of foxes - was diagnosed by some American psychiatrists in 2001 with antisocial personality disorder.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/thisweek/story/0,,1265886,00.html
 

TheQuixote

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#26
Napoleon killed by medics and enemas, study claims

Amelia Gentleman in Paris
Friday July 23, 2004
The Guardian

There was no plotting by royalists, no arsenic and no murder. Instead, Napoleon Bonaparte was killed by incompetent doctors and too many uncomfortably large enemas, according to a new study.

One of the world's most enduring conspiracy theories may be laid to rest if research conducted by the San Francisco medical examiner's department proves accurate.

An autopsy performed straight after Napoleon's death, by his personal physician, revealed that he had died from stomach cancer. But over the decades historians have disputed this explanation, suggesting either that the exiled leader might have died from toxic ingredients in his hair ointment, or was killed by his confidant Charles de Montholon as part of a plot to prevent his returning to seize power in France.

But after a detailed study of the medical records kept during the illness that blighted most of Napoleon's final years in exile on St Helena, where he had been banished after his defeat at Waterloo, forensic pathologists in California have focused on the daily enema he had to relieve the pain caused by the cancer.

"They used really big, nasty syringe-shaped things," Steven Karch, head of the researchers, told New Scientist magazine.

In the final crisis of Napoleon's illness, five English doctors were brought in to see him. They gave him regular doses of antimony potassium tartrate to make him vomit. But this treatment would have depleted his potassium levels, and may have caused a lethal heart condition in which rapid heartbeats disrupt the blood flow to the brain, the scientists say.

The doctors' decision to administer a purgative of 600mg of mercuric chloride (five times the usual amount) on May 3 1821 would have further reduced his potassium levels - and may have been fatal. He died two days later, aged 51.

Guardian
 
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#27
Did Mozart have Tourette's Syndrome?

Mozart 'may have had Tourette's'

A new Channel 4 documentary is to suggest that Mozart suffered from the compulsive obsessive disorder Tourette's Syndrome.

The claims have been made by British composer James McConnel, who himself has the condition.

McConnel says the clues are to be found in letters written by Mozart as well as his music.

Symptoms of Tourette's Syndrome can often include uncontrollable swearing and facial tics.

McConnel says that Mozart's fascination with wordplay and obsession with clocks, shoe sizes and gadgets, as well as his documented twitching all pointed to him being a Tourette's sufferer.

Chaotic

"Tourette's is a constant battle between chaos and control, having a compulsion and trying to control it, and that translates into music," he said.

"Mozart let his music run off in chaotic directions but then always brought it back under control."

However, McConnel, who is from Norfolk, says that even if Mozart had had the condition, it was not the root cause of his talent.

"He was a genius and while Tourette's syndrome may have affected the way in which his genius manifested himself, he would have been a brilliant composer without it."

Producer Marion Milne said the documentary would take a positive look at the composer's life.

"We are not seeking to discredit Mozart but celebrate who he was and his extraordinary achievement," she said.

The programme will be screened on Channel 4 in October.
Story from BBC NEWS:BBC news
 

lopaka

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#29
The documentary may be new, but the theory/speculation has been around since the early 90's. (Hey, McConnel, use the "Search" feature!)

I read an article recently by Oliver Sacks (wonderful popular science writer & noted psychiatrist...do not draw too many conclusions about him from the ur-dreadul Robin Williams vehicle Awakenings ) qand one of the things he talked about was the significance (and differences) of the perception of time for people with different disorders. For instance a person with Parkinson's might think they're moving their arm to wipe their nose at a "normal" rate, but it doesn't seem to most people observing them that they're moving it at all.

The reverse with Tourette's. The world is seen at times as moving in slow-motion, the way you might see it in a car crash, even though it's all progressing in "normal-time". Tim Howard may owe some of his superhuman reflexes to this condition.

Or re: Mozart; It doesn't get you there by itself, but it's possibly an added feature to one's already existing virtuosity.
 
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