Mozart (1756-1791)

Did Mozart really have TS?

Was there a "Malady behind his Melody?"

In late 1992, the British Medical Journal published an article by endocrinologist Benjamin Simkin, M.D. (along with a disputing editorial by neurologist Oliver Sacks, M.D.) speculating that Mozart's love of scatological * language meant that he had Tourette Syndrome. An Associated Press wire story about those articles was picked up by newspapers worldwide, and caused an international sensation! The AP story was full of inaccuracies, and after determined advocacy on the part of the National Tourette Syndrome Association, the wire service issued a retraction.

Needless to say, the sensational coverage of the musings of Dr. Simkin on medical history created a stir of interest and controversy. Nevertheless, while speculation about whether a famous historical personality of Mozart's genius might have had a medical condition makes for intriguing reading, we can never know if it is true or not. Obviously children and adults with TS are maligned by such speculation.

Having said that, it has been documented that Mozart's scatalogical letters were written to his cousin Maria Mozart whom he may have loved. He was known to be hyperactive, have mood swings, tics, sudden impulses and a love of nonsense words. He was observed spinning, leaping, fidgeting and performing strange motor movements.

According to Dr. Oliver Sacks, regarding BMJ's editorial: "the case for Mozart's having TS doesn't strike me as entirely convincing. . . But the case for Samuel Johnson having TS, although also circumstantial is extremely strong . . ." Sacks goes on to say that Johnson". . . was observed to have innumerable rituals and compulsions, tics, gesticulations and a great range of involuntary movements and mimicries . . . . His enormous spontaneity, antics and lightning quick wit may have been connected organically with his accelerated motor impulsive state."

* American Heritage Dictionary - The study of fecal excrement (medicine) or an obsession with excrement or excretory functions. Obscene language dealing pruriently or humorously with excrement or excretory functions.

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