16 Historical Figures Who Suffered from STDs
16 Historical Figures Who Suffered from STDs

16 Historical Figures Who Suffered from STDs

Trista - October 8, 2018

16 Historical Figures Who Suffered from STDs
James Boswell, 1740 – 1795. Diarist and biographer of Dr Samuel Johnson. Scottish National Gallery/George Willison/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

15. Scottish Biographer James Boswell Had Gonorrhea

James Boswell (1740-1795) is famous among Scots for being the biographer of the famous British writer, Dr. Samuel Johnson. During his childhood, he was known to suffer bouts of depression, nervousness, and depression, some of which may have been hereditary. Born into prestige and surrounded by affluent circles, yet plagued by isolation and mental illness, he aspired to become a writer. His parents were strict — his mother brought him up as an austere Calvinist, and his father despised his penchant for the literary and theatrical arts — which possibly led to him frequently consorting with prostitutes throughout his youth and adult life.

From the very first time that he met with a prostitute, during his time in London, he picked up a venereal disease. He probably didn’t learn his lesson, as in his diary, he kept meticulous records of his consortations. He went on to have at least 19 attacks of gonorrhea, something that probably did little to help the mental torment and isolation that had plagued him since childhood. His wife would note the swollen size of his genitalia due to venereal disease and would apply a poultice to them every night.

What is the moral of the story? Kids will find a way to escape a harsh upbringing, even if doing so brings disaster upon them.

16 Historical Figures Who Suffered from STDs
Franz Schubert. Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien/Wilhelm August Rieder/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

16. Franz Schubert Had Syphilis

Franz Schubert, the classical composer, showed an early aptitude for music, including a prodigious talent for the piano and voice. He studied under Antonio Salieri (the same guy who was Mozart’s rival) and began composing music as a young adult. Living in Vienna, Austria during the 1800s, on at least one occasion he passed by Beethoven while walking down the street! Hearing one of his own pieces performed in public inspired Schubert to quit his day job as a teacher and pursue music full-time. He struggled financially, though, as his music was not as traditional as what patrons were accustomed to financing. He went on to contract syphilis — which was common in Vienna — as a young adult, which may have affected his career as a composer.

Schubert’s health deteriorated, likely due at least in part to syphilis, which he self-medicated with mercury (before mercury’s toxic effects became known, it was widely used in medicine). In fact, he was so secretive about his disease that he had his friends burn all of his paperwork associated with it. He died an early death at the age of 31. Ironically, his final performance brought in enough money for him to finally buy a piano. His music didn’t become well-known until after his death; should he have lived a few more years, he may have died a wealthy man.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Al Capone,” by biography.com editors. Biography.com. January 3, 2018.

“Aleister Crowley,” by Robert Lewis. Encyclopedia Britannica. October 3, 2017.

“Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Biography,” by biography.com editors. Biography.com. April 2, 2014.

“12 Historical Figures You Didn’t Know Had STDs,” by Kellen Perry. Ranker.com.

“Tallulah Bankhead,” by the editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica. June 2, 1999.

“Scott Joplin,” by the editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica. January 12, 2000.

“Maurice Barrymore,” by the editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica. January 27, 1999.

“John Dillinger.” FBI History.

“Beau Brummell,” by the editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica. July 20, 1998.

“Dress,” by the editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica. July 20, 1998.

“James Boswell,” by Frederick A. Pottle. Encyclopedia Britannica.

“Ambrose Powell Hill,” by History.com editors. History.com. October 27, 2009.

“Franz Schubert Biography,” by Biography.com editors. Biography.com. April 2, 2014.

“Magic Johnson Biography,” by Biography.com editors. Biography.com. April 2, 2014.

“Kennedy’s Private Ills,” by Richard Reeves. The New York Times. November 21, 2002.

“Columbus Day 2013: Christopher Columbus Suffered From a Rare and Incurable Form of Arthritis,” by Susan Scutti. Medical Daily. October 14, 2013.

“Historical Figures You Won’t Believe Had STDs” Bro Bible. JUNE 24, 2014.

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