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  • July 2011
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Gross. Interesting, but Gross

So I just read this book.

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg

It’s chock-full of disgusting facts about how famous historical figures died. Even though I was majorly squicked out by some of the gory details it was hard to look away. In fact, I read it cover to cover in one sitting.

Here are some samples of what you might find out:

George Washington: We all know he was our first president, but did you know he had really nasty teeth? Read how his rotten chompers, a bloodletting blade, and poisonous beetles all contributed to the founding father’s death.

Beethoven had something that at the time was called “dropsy”, now referred to as “edema”. What that means is the body retains fluid that it shouldn’t and swells up like a balloon, and Beethoven’s body was retaining fluid like it was going out of style. He got so swollen that the doctors, without taking any steps to prevent infection, drilled a hole in his abdomen, drained the gunky fluid off with a hose, then stuffed the hole with rags. So was it the dropsy or the dirty doctors that led to his ultimate demise?

I’m sure you’ve heard that Edgar Allan Poe was a creepy guy. Just read any of his short stories. Even his death had an eerie quality. It started with him disappearing for six days. It ended with him in a hospital, deliriously going on and on about someone named “Reynolds”. No one is sure what really killed him. People assumed for years that it was alcohol poisoning, but could it have been something else?

Poor Charles Darwin. He will always be remembered as the guy who came up with the concept of evolution, but while he was alive he was miserable. He had ten children, but three died before reaching adulthood and three were disabled (possibly as a result of Darwin being married to his first cousin–evolution in action). For fifty years he suffered from puzzling health problems such as headaches, insomnia, eczema, and depression. He was such an anxious guy that he barfed multiple times every day for years on end. But when he did die he got to be buried next to Sir Isaac Newton, so that’s pretty cool.

Want more? Then check out How They Croaked. In all honesty, you might regret it. I know I did.

– Eva

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