Excerpted from The Book of Lists #3, by Amy Wallace, David Wallechinsky, and Irving Wallace
Primary source: Stephen Berger, Of Natural Causes: The Disease and Death of Just About Everybody. New York: Vantage Books, 1982
Illustrations by Laura Park
ALFRED THE GREAT
As a very young man, King Alfred of Wessex expressed the wish that God would send him a disease that would suppress lust but would not deprive him of the ability to rule. Soon he became afflicted with hemorrhoids, and once, after a painful day out hunting on horseback, Alfred stopped at St. Neot’s shrine in Cornwall to pray for relief.
NIKOLAI GOGOL (1809–1852)
In 1831, the young Russian author wrote to his mother, “Suffering from hemorrhoids, I had the foolish idea that it was some other and more dangerous ailment. Later I learned that there was not one man in St. Petersburg free from this nuisance.” Lifelong overeating worsened his condition.
The African explorer and medical missionary suffered innumerable bouts of hemorrhoids. In 1864, he refused surgery to remove them because he feared he would be disabled and thus prevented from returning to Africa. Livingstone is the only famous person known to have died from hemorrhoids.
The 38th president of the US had always been athletic. Before earning his law degree at Yale University, he was a football and boxing coach there. But in later years, as hemorrhoids restricted his activities, Ford began finding less strenuous sports—such as golf—more to his liking.
KARL MARX (1818–1883)
EARL WARREN (1891–1974)
, Marx was plagued by hemorrhoids. He wrote to his friend Friedrich Engels, “To finish I must at least be able to
.” He added, “I hope the bourgeoisie will remember my carbuncles.” Sitting on the bench of the US Supreme Court from 1953 to 1969 may have been uncomfortable for Chief Justice Warren, but he did not allow his hemorrhoids to deter him from participating in many landmark court decisions.
JIMMY CARTER (1924– )
GEORGE BRETT (1953– )
In 1974 Carter underwent surgery for hemorrhoids. But the 39th president of the US was so incapacitated by hemorrhoidal pain that on one occasion he was forced to cancel his day’s work at the White House. One sympathizer from Egypt sent the following message: “May Allah cure you. This illness should have been inflicted on an unjust ruler rather than you, O Carter.” After the first game of the 1980 World Series, the Kansas City Royals announced that their star hitter was incapacitated by hemorrhoids. Brett had corrective surgery, and 30 hours later he left the hospital in time to play in the third game of the Series. He commented to reporters, “My problem’s behind me now.”
ELIZABETH TAYLOR (1932–2011)
A movie star since she was a teenager, Taylor has had an equally impressive career of medical difficulties—an emergency tracheotomy, skin cancer, dislodgement of a chicken bone in her throat, back traction, and two operations to remove persistent hemorrhoids.