Thus saw Zarathustra: The eyes and brain of Friedrich Nietzsche

St. Inigoes, Maryland

The iconoclastic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had poor vision throughout his life, well before becoming mentally deranged in 1889 at the age of 45. The admitting physician of the sanitarium to which Nietzsche was committed noted pupillary abnormalities and diagnosed "general paresis of the insane" or tertiary syphilis. Biographies of Neitzsche in the century since his death often refer to his alleged neurosyphilis, although the diagnosis is problematical: no Wasserman test was yet available, no autopsy was performed, and clinical grounds alone argue against the diagnosis. Schizophrenia, the more likely diagnosis, was just starting to emerge as a recognized entity. Emil Kraepelin's Clinical Psychiatry (Sixth Edition), in which he clearly distinguished manic-depressive disorder from dementia praecox, appeared in 1899, the year before Nietzsche's death.

Session VII -- Famous People and Disease
Monday, 3 June 2002, 4:45 pm

Seventh Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Los Angeles, California, USA