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, 6 (2), 115-39

Did All Those Famous People Really Have Epilepsy?


Did All Those Famous People Really Have Epilepsy?

John R Hughes. Epilepsy Behav.


Many famous individuals are said to have had epilepsy, and these names often find their way into books and lectures on epilepsy. The goal of this study was to investigate in detail the histories of 43 of those people who had various kinds of attacks, but not epilepsy. They range chronologically from Pythagorus, born in 582 bc, to the actor Richard Burton, born in 1925 AD. Epilepsy was misdiagnosed in 26% who had psychogenic attacks, in 21% with attacks of anguish, nervousness, fear, agitation, or weakness; and in 12% with alcohol withdrawal seizures. In some instances no evidence of any episodic symptom could be found. One unexpected finding was that 40% of these well-known, individuals had serious, often life-threatening, physical conditions as infants or very young children. This article is an attempt to correct the record with respect to these people and also to remind us of the many reasons similar misdiagnoses are being made today.

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