List of syphilis cases

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Portrait of Gerard de Lairesse by Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1665–67, oil on canvas. De Lairesse, himself a painter and art theorist, suffered from congenital syphilis that severely deformed his face and eventually blinded him.[1]

Mental illness caused by late-stage syphilis was once a common form of dementia. This was known as the general paresis of the insane. The list below contains a representative listing of famous historical figures diagnosed with or strongly suspected (marked "S") as having had syphilis at some time. Many people who acquired syphilis were treated and recovered; some died from it (marked "†").

Many famous historical figures, including Charles VIII of France, Christopher Columbus,[2] Hernán Cortés of Spain, Benito Mussolini, and Ivan the Terrible,[2] were often alleged to have had syphilis or other sexually transmitted infections. Sometimes these allegations were false and formed part of a political whispering campaign. In other instances, retrospective diagnoses of suspected cases have been made in modern times.

Keys: S—suspected case; —died of syphilis

Others include French poet Charles Baudelaire[13] French writer Guy de Maupassant[14] and French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.[15]


  1. ^ The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Summer 2007, pp. 55–56.
  2. ^ a b c Hayden, Deborah (4 August 2008). Pox: Genius, Madness, And The Mysteries Of Syphilis. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0786724130. OCLC 50725392. 
  3. ^ Wilson, A. G. (2001). Tolstoy: A Biography. New York: Norton. ISBN 0-393-32122-3. 
  4. ^ "Frederick Delius Biography Sublime Music, Tragic Life". Favorite Classical Composers. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  5. ^ Lerner, V.; Finkelstein, Y.; Witztum, E. (2004-05-26). "The enigma of Lenin's (1870-1924) malady". European Journal of Neurology. 11 (6): 371–376. PMID 15171732. doi:10.1111/j.1468-1331.2004.00839.x. 
  6. ^ Donelson, Linda (1998). Out of Isak Dinesen in Africa. Coulsong. ISBN 0-9643893-9-8.
  7. ^ "Did Hitler Have Syphilis?". Medical News Today. Retrieved 2010-10-02. An encounter with a Jewish prostitute in Vienna in 1908 may have given Hitler neuro-syphilis and provided the 'deadly logic and blueprint for the Holocaust' as well as giving him a reason to attempt to eliminate the mentally retarded, according to evidence presented at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. 
  8. ^ Bergreen, Laurence (1994). Capone: The Man and the Era. New York: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks. ISBN 978-0-684-82447-5. 
  9. ^ Tithonus, Pednuad, J. "Eugen Sandow - Father of Bodybuilding". The Human Marvels. Retrieved 2008-09-17. At the time of his death in 1925, a cover story was released stating Sandow died prematurely at age 58 of a stroke shortly after pushing his car out of the mud. The actual cause of death was more likely due to complications from syphilis. 
  10. ^ Tom Pendergast and Sara Pendergast (2000). St. James encyclopedia of popular culture. St. James Press. ISBN 978-1-55862-404-7. ... speculates that the strongman's death may have been the result of an aortic aneurysm brought about by syphilis. 
  11. ^ Idi Amin The Guardian, Obituaries, 18 August 2003: "It's no secret that Amin is suffering from the advanced stages of syphilis, which has caused brain damage".
  12. ^ Lawley, Robert Neville (1852). General Seydlitz, a Military Biography. W. Clowes & Sons, pp 178–179.
  13. ^ C. Pichois and J. Ziegler, Charles Baudelaire, new edition, Paris: Fayard, 2005, p. 224-229; M. Monnier, "La maladie de Baudelaire", in C. Pichois ed., Baudelaire: études et témoignages, Neuchâtel, 1976, p. 219-238.
  14. ^ Maupassant died at age 43 of syphilis he had acquired 16 years previously. (Bruno Halioua, "Comment la syphilis emporta Maupassant", La revue du praticien, 30 June 2003.) When he first learned he had caught the disease Maupassant actually rejoiced, writing to a friend: "I have the pox! Finally! The big one! [J'ai la vérole! enfin! la vraie!] ... I have the pox [...] and I am proud of that by God! And I have the greatest contempt for the bourgeois." (Guy de Maupassant, Letter to Robert Pinchon aka LaToque, 2 March 1877.)
  15. ^ "Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec Biography". Retrieved 18 September 2016.