Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by bacterium. The route of transmission of syphilis is almost always through sexual contact. Some famous historical personalities who had contacted syphilis include: Charles VIII of France, Adolph Hitler, Mussolini, Ludwig von Beethoven and Leo Tolstoy. A few famous people who died of syphilis are as follows:
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Christopher Columbus, explorer credited with discovering America, was born in 1451 in Genoa, Italy. The Italian navigator Columbus sailed from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, and discovered the route to America. It is believed that the spread of syphilis across the globe was probably sparked by Christopher Columbus and his crew. Columbus became infected with syphilis and later died of the deadly disease while in prison.
American composer and piano player famous for his ragtime compositions was born in Texarkana, Texas in 1867. Joplin had the uncanny ability to improvise on the piano and was considered “King of the Ragtime”. In his life, he composed forty-four original ragtime hits including “The Entertainer” and “Maple Leaf Rag” which were both famous at the turn of the century. Seventy years later, his fame returned with the Academy award-winning movie “The Sting” and he was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his work. He contracted syphilis from the houses of prostitution that he played in during his life and died in 1917 from the disease.
Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15, 1769. He was the first ruler of Bonaparte dynasty. He conquered and ruled over much of western and central Europe. Napoleon was one of the so called “Enlighten Monarch”. Napoleon too suffered from syphilis and probably died due to consumption of arsenic which was used for treatment for syphilis during that time. Others state that he may have had stomach cancer, but the arsenic was found in his hair follicles and in his system.
Franz Schubert, born on January 31, 1797, was as an early romantic Austrian composer and one of the most gifted musicians of the 19th century. He is best known for his lieder – German art songs for voice and piano. His symphonic work represents the best legacy of the classical tradition, while his songs exemplify the height of romantic lyricism. He had battled syphilis since 1822. In the midst of his career his health deteriorated. The cause of his death was consumption of mercury which was a common treatment of syphilis in 19th century.
Capone was a notorious mobster who led organized crime in Chicago. He was born, Alphonse Gabriel Capone on January 17, 1899 in New York City. Capone ran the Chicago underworld dealing with bootlegging, prostitution, and gambling. In the 1930s, at the height of his mafia reign, he was brought down by Eliot Ness and his Untouchables for tax evasion and sentenced to Alcatraz prison. It was here that he started showing signs of dementia brought on by a case of untreated syphilis in his youth. He was allowed to spend time in residential treatment and died at his estate in Miami, Florida.