Famous People with Epilepsy
There have always been people with epilepsy. Since the dawn of time,
epilepsy has affected millions of people, from beggars to kings. It is
one of the oldest conditions of the human race.
The earliest references to epilepsy date back to the fifth millennium
B.C. in Mesopotamia, where epileptic auras, generalized convulsions and
other aspects of what these ancient people called "the falling sickness"
were recorded with remarkably accurate descriptions.
Some ancient people thought epileptic seizures were caused by evil
spirits or demons that had invaded a person's body. Priests attempted to
cure people with epilepsy by driving the demons out of them with magic
and prayers. This superstition was challenged by ancient physicians like Atreya of India and later Hippocrates of Greece, both of whom recognized
a seizure as a dysfunction of the brain and not a supernatural event.
Nevertheless, the superstitious interpretation of epilepsy persisted
for centuries, and still exists in some parts of the world. Attitudes of
past societies toward epilepsy have left a legacy of stigma and damaging
misconceptions which still persist today. Many people with epilepsy
continue to face fear, prejudice and discrimination in their everyday
On the other hand, epileptic seizures have a power and symbolism
which, historically, have suggested a relationship with creativity or
unusual leadership abilities. Scholars have long been fascinated by
evidence that prominent religious leaders, political leaders,
philosophers, and many who achieved greatness in the arts and sciences
suffered from epilepsy.
Aristotle was apparently the first to connect epilepsy and genius.
His catalogue of "great epileptics" (which included Socrates) was
added to during the Renaissance. Only people from Western culture were
included, however. So strong was this tradition that even in the
nineteenth century, when new names of "great epileptics" were added,
they were rarely chosen from among people in other parts of the world.
Working from this biased historical legacy, the famous people with
epilepsy that we know about are primarily white males.
We know that epilepsy involves temporary bursts of excessive
electrical activity in different locations in the brain, locations which
house our bodily sensations and functions, as well as our memories and
emotions. Psychiatrist Dr. David Bear states that the abnormal brain
activity found in temporal lobe epilepsy can play a role in creative
thinking and the making of art by uniting sensitivity, insight and
sustained, critical attention.
According to Dr. Bear:
"A temporal lobe focus in the superior individual may spark an
extraordinary search for that entity we alternately call truth or
Nowadays, modern medicine can diagnose Epilepsy far more accurately
than in past centuries. However, many of the world's most famous people
are historically recorded as having had seizures. People with epilepsy
have excelled in every area. What follows is a list of people who are
responsible for changing civilization as we know it, all of whom are
strongly suspected or known to have had epilepsy. It's an impressive
||Tony Greig (Cricket)
||Terry Marsh (Boxer)
|Sir Walter Scott
||Greg Walker (Baseball)
||Wally Lewis (Rugby)
|Alfred, Lord Tennyson
||Paul Wade (Aussie Football)
||Allen Faneca (NFL)
||Chandra Gunn (Women's Hockey)
||Bobby Jones (Basketball)
||Garry Howatt (NHL)
||Derek Morris (NHL)
||MILITARY & POLITICAL LEADERS:
|Edgar Allen Poe
||Alexander the Great
||King Louis XIII (France)
|Joan of Arc
||King Charles V (Spain)
|Pope Pius IX
||Peter the Great
||Theodore Roosevelt (U.S. President)
||James Madison (U.S.) President
||Leonardo Da Vinci
||Vincent Van Gogh
|Sir Isaac Newton
|Emilie Dionne (of the Dionne
**The Edmonton Epilepsy
Association has assembled this information from both print sources and
online sources. If there are any discrepancies in the above information,
please contact us so we may amend it.