According to the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, King George III’s ill-treatment of the American colonies, which prompted the American Revolution, can now be tied to the king’s insanity, a condition resulting from a genetic metabolic disease known as porphyria, a blood-related disorder. This condition could have been aggravated by high doses of lead contained at the time in Portuguese wine, a favorite pastime of the King. Today, with diagnosis made possible through clinical laboratory testing, porphyria can be treated with haematin, a blood product. With such treatment, perhaps, Americans might still pay homage to the British royalty.
Conducted by Paul Wolf, MD, Professor of Clinical Pathology at the University of California in San Diego and the VA Medical Center, San Diego, the research also examines other links between clinical chemistry and famous artists, musicians, and politicians. For example, Van Gogh’s use of yellow in his later works can be tied to his yellow vision, the result of the digitalis used in those days to treat epilepsy and excessive drinking of absinthe. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel masterpiece includes an image of Michelangelo with symptoms of gout, a condition that plagued the artist during this period of his work. Others examined by Wolf include Beethoven, Berlioz, Chopin, Cellini, Benjamin Franklin, President Lincoln, President Kennedy, President Roosevelt, Mahler, Rachmaninov.
Wolf’s overall premise is that illness has affected the work and achievements of classical artists, musicians, and statesmen. If clinical chemistry had existed then, according to Wolf’s research, the cause of the diseases might have been determined and perhaps even treated.