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August 17, 1994

Was George Washington Really the Father of Our Country? A Clinical Geneticist Looks at World History

Author Affiliations

University of Tennessee Memphis

JAMA. 1994;272(7):569. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520070089053

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Clinical genetics is rarely a topic favored by physicians in training, so teachers of the subject often resort to the "freak show" approach to make it more palatable. Yet, most freaks of nature are anonymous and have little relevance to daily life. How much better, then, to illustrate the subject with historical celebrities, whose lives carry great audience appeal and are now subject to increasingly microscopic (and often molecular) scrutiny. Robert Marion, an academic physician, accomplished lecturer, and popular author (this is his fifth book), here expands upon his student and resident lectures to illustrate for the general reading public the genetic and metabolic disorders affecting prominent world leaders of the last two centuries.

The cast could scarcely be more significant: King George III, George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Tsar Nicholas II, and John F. Kennedy. The book begins with George III, whose "Royal Malady" (porphyria variegata) of recurrent

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