Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyJohn F. Kennedy conquered Addison's disease--an adrenal disorder which caused weakness, lethargy, bouts of vomiting and prostration--by taking cortisone daily, starting around 1950. Geneticist-physician Marion ( The Boy Who Felt No Pain ) theorizes that JFK's recovery instilled feelings of invincibility that spurred his political rise. Marion's compulsively readable retrospective diagnoses throw an often startling light on figures and events in world history. He deduces that Abraham Lincoln had a congenital heart malformation which contributed to his awkward appearance; the taunts Lincoln endured because of his looks steeled his hatred of discrimination and slavery, in Marion's view. Other chapters cover Napoleon Bonaparte's gynecomastia (enlargement of male breasts), George Washington's sterility (perhaps due to a rare chromosomal disorder) and English King George III's probable porphyria, a hereditary metabolic disease that impaired his ability to reason, may have hardened the monarch's policies toward the 13 American colonies. Illustrated. (Feb.)
Library JournalMarion, a clinical geneticist and lecturer, combines informative reading with a highly entertaining style. In his latest book, he analyzes historical documents and texts that pertain to the lives of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and several other historical leaders. He then attempts to ascertain whether these people may have suffered from a particular genetic disorder and, if so, how it may have affected their lives and careers. Photographs are included to illustrate some of the physical features associated with these disorders. The author is particularly adept at defining scientific concepts, making the text quite understandable to the informed lay reader. The major emphasis here is on the medical conditions; however, the historical associations in this book provide an interesting method for learning about basic genetics and genetic diseases. Recommended for large popular medicine collections.-- Tina Neville, Univ. of South Florida-St. Petersburg Lib.
William BeattyMarion's six subjects--George III, Washington, Napoleon, Lincoln, Czar Nicholas II and his family, and John F. Kennedy--are no strangers to either popular or medical literature. But Marion ties them together into a novel collection. He shows how various genetic diseases individually affected them and, in turn, governmental actions. Especially interesting are Washington's infertility and XYY syndrome, Napoleon's fabled shortness (a by-product of confusion between French and English systems of measurement), and the combined effects of porphyria and hemophilia in the Russian ruling family. Although some diagnoses of his historical figures are based on conjecture and thereby discourage our interest, Marion compensates by fleshing out his investigations and theories with detailed accounts of some of his own patients' cases. Although the book adds little to our knowledge of its main subjects, its genetic viewpoint affords an unusual perspective on them.
BooknewsMarion is director of the Center for Congenital Disorders at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York, and he is also the author of a novel and three other non-fiction books. He writes compellingly and takes on some irresistible subjects, including George III's urine and the American Revolution, Napoleon's size, Lincoln and Dr. Marfan's syndrome, the molecular genetics of the Russian revolution, and JFK and compound F, along with the topic announced in the title. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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