[Martin Luther's seizure disorder]

Sudhoffs Arch. 1989;73(1):26-44.
[Article in German]


Martin Luther's diseases are well documented, because he used to discuss them freely in his letters. There is also a wealth of evidence through reports by his friends. Most of his diseases were common and well known to the contemporary physicians, who accordingly interpreted them correctly: bladder stones, chronic constipation, hemorrhoids. Luther's death obviously was due to a coronary thrombosis. During the last 19 years of his life, in addition to these "natural diseases", Luther also suffered from recurring attacks of a peculiar symptomatology. Luther himself and his friends considered these seizures to be no "natural disease", but Satan punching his flesh, and he compared them to St. Paul's disease (2. Cor. 12). The first of these attacks occurred on July 6, 1527, when Luther was 43 years of age. It began with a roaring tinnitus in his left ear, which increased dramatically and seemed to occupy the left half of his head. Then a state of sickness and collapse followed, however, consciousness was retained throughout the whole period. After a night's rest all the symptoms had subsided, except the tinnitus, which, from that day on, continued for all the following years in varying intensity. Similar attacks with increase of the tinnitus and vertigo as the leading symptoms, seized Luther at irregular intervals and distressed him extremely. Former investigators of Luther's diseases interpreted these attacks as manifestations of a psychiatric disorder and a chronic inflammatory disease of the middle ear. The present detailed study reveals that it was a typical case of Menière's disease of the left ear manifesting itself more than 330 years before Menière's classical observation.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • English Abstract
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Christianity / history*
  • Famous Persons*
  • Germany
  • History, 16th Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meniere Disease / history*
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Seizures / history*

Personal name as subject

  • M Luther