Historical Figures with Lung Disease

by | Feb 13, 2015 | Lung Disease, Related Conditions

Taking a deep breath, he tried to remember the words that he had so painstakingly recited the night before. Having only been in Houston for a few hours now, finding the time to memorize this speech was difficult. Now here he was, standing in a hallway with the sounds of 35,000 anxiously excited people waiting for him outside. Walking back and forth down the hall, he rehearsed the speech in his head until it was almost perfect.

It was times like this that he was grateful his asthma was under control. Asthma was an ongoing occurrence for him since childhood and proved to be difficult to control at times, but not today. Turning the corner, a member of his Secret Service detail informed him that they were ready. Opening the doors to the bright sunlight, the President began his trek to the podium, all the while smiling to the eager crowd at Rice University. When he finally arrived, he exhaled his breath and delivered one of the most defining speeches of his presidency. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade…”  


President John F. Kennedy was no stranger when it came to breathing difficulties from lung disease. From childhood to adolescence, he experienced whooping cough, jaundice and chronic asthma. While he endured more medical problems than most people experience in a lifetime, it didn’t stop him from becoming one of the greatest leaders known to history. He is not alone though. There are many men and women who have left their marks on history while living with a chronic lung condition.

William T. Sherman, a Union General during the American Civil War, was one of the most decorated soldiers during the war for his famous campaign, “Sherman’s March to the Sea.” Sherman lived with chronic asthma and possibly COPD (medical journals at the time had not classified COPD as a separate medical condition) during the later years of his life. He passed away on February 14, 1891 from a bacterial infection and pneumonia. Elizabeth Bishop was an American poet and short-story writer who also lived with the devastating effects of lung disease. She too lived with ongoing asthma and constant breathing difficulties while writing such stories as “In the Village” and “In the Waiting Room.”

Here are a few other historical figures with lung disease:

  • John Locke – 17th century politician, philosopher
  • Samuel Johnson – 18th century poet, critic, essayist
  • William III of England (1650-1702) – Prince of Orange, King of England, Scotland and Ireland
  • Peter the Great – Russian Czar
  • Jan Baptista van Helmont- Belgian pioneer in medicine and chemistry
  • Theodore Roosevelt – 26th President of the U.S.
  • Edith Wharton – author
  • Charles Dickens – author
  • Beruj Benacerraf – Immunologist, Nobel Prize winner

History has seen its share of figures live with medical conditions and yet impact the world around them. Now there are treatments available to help relieve the symptoms of lung disease. Contact the Lung Health Institute to learn more about how to bring your life back within reach by calling 888-745-6697.

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