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Famous People Who Had Syphilis

Famous People Who Had Syphilis

Syphilis is usually considered to thrive in the underdeveloped world and developing nations, particularly among those who are uneducated, living in poverty and those who do not have access to modern healthcare. Lack of awareness is certainly one of the primary triggers of syphilis because it is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum.

Al Capone
However, as history indicates, syphilis is not just prevalent in the underdeveloped countries but also among thriving economies and among the rich and the privileged.

There are many famous people who have had syphilis. Some had been treated successfully while some lived on with the condition. Quite a few famous persons had succumbed to syphilis and due to its associated complications.

List of Famous People Who Had Syphilis

Endre Ady
John Batman
Napoleon Bonaparte
Al Capone
Paul Gauguin
Vincent van Gogh
Heinrich Heine
Adolf Hitler
Howard Hughes
Scott Joplin
William Lobb
Édouard Manet
Guy de Maupassant
Friedrich Nietzsche
Leo Tolstoy
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
George Walker
Oscar Wilde
Hugo Wolf

Howard Hughes, one of the wealthiest men in the 20th century world, an entrepreneur and innovator in his own right, had syphilis. He was particularly known for his eccentric lifestyle and when he was diagnosed of syphilis, not many were surprised. Having unprotected sex or having multiple sex partners are some triggers of syphilis as sexual contact with the bacteria can easily cause the condition.

In some cases, syphilis is genetic. The bacteria may be passed onto a fetus or a newborn by the mother. In such cases, it is known as congenital syphilis. Some famous people like Vincent Van Gogh were diagnosed and cured of syphilis and it is unclear if it was congenital in their cases.

The reason why it is thought that the famous Dutch painter may have been genetically infected is because his brother too had the condition. Syphilis is not a rare condition but coincidences of multiple members of a family having the condition is certainly an oddity of sorts, particularly among those who are learned, aware and have access to immediate healthcare.

Édouard Manet

There are many famous people who are suspected to have suffered from syphilis and the list includes the likes of Leo Tolstoy, Napoleon Bonaparte, Oscar Wilde and William Lobb among others. Many famous people died due to syphilis or due to deteriorating health partly caused by syphilis. Some of such famous people are Endre Ady, John Batman, Paul Gauguin, Heinrich Heine, Hugo Wolf, George Walker, Scott Joplin and Edouard Manet among others.


Syphilis is treatable and if diagnosed at the earliest or primitive stages then the worsening of the infection can also be prevented, saving the much painful symptoms of later stages of the condition.