Lincoln Discussion Symposium

Full Version: The Physical Lincoln
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2
A book titled The Physical Lincoln by Dr. John Sotos has recently been published. In the book Dr. Sotos argues that Lincoln suffered from a rare genetic cancer syndrome called MEN2B (multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 2B). Sotos says that Lincoln did not have Marfan's syndrome, some of his boys and probably his mother had the same syndrome, and that the president had less than a year to live prior to the assassination. Included in Sotos' arguments are the fact that Lincoln had the classic body shape of those suffering from MEN2B. Sotos' feels Lincoln was dying of cancer during the last months of his life. Thyroid cancer is particularly common among people who have MEN2B.

Any opinions - was Lincoln dying of cancer when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth?
I now have borrowed"The Great American Myth"and"The Inner Life Of Abraham Lincoln".My Summer reading is almost complete!
Roger,
I read somewhere that Lincoln weighed only about 150 lbs when he was assassinated. I forget where I read this, but if it is true it would make sense that he had cancer. By the way, this forum is a great idea.

Craig
Both of the books that I mentioned are tremendous!"The Inner Life Of Abraham Lincoln" was written in 1869 by the artist who painted-Lincoln and the Emancipation-which now hangs in the Capitol in DC.
Craig, I have read that also. Certainly he was down from the 180 pounds that was his typical adult weight.

It is strange, though, as at least one of the doctors who performed the autopsy was amazed at what he was seeing. Dr. Edward Curtis wrote, "I was simply astonished at the showing of the nude remains, where well-rounded muscles built upon strong bones told the powerful athlete. Now did I understand the deeds of prowess recorded of the President's early days."
Roger,

Have you read Richard Slotkin's novel, "Abe," about the young Lincoln's life?

You know that I am not the Lincoln fan that some are, being a displaced Virginian and all, but I found this book to be very well written and enjoyed it very much.

Not sure about some of the historical content & accuracy.

Rick
I remember watching the Nat Geo special entitled, "Lincoln's Silent Killer" which followed Dr. Sotos trying to extract Lincoln DNA from a piece of Laura Keene's dress. The biggest problem I have with Dr. Sotos' theory is Lincoln's lifespan. According to his own research those with MEN2B develop tumors early on and die from cancer at young ages. If Lincoln did have this genetic disorder, it is extremely unlikely he would have lived into his fifties as he did.

Now I suppose it's possible that Lincoln might have had cancer when he was killed. That would be seemingly impossible to prove, though. Even if he did have cancer, I seriously doubt it was caused by an incredibly rare genetic disorder.
(07-06-2012 03:42 PM)Rick Smith Wrote: [ -> ]Roger,

Have you read Richard Slotkin's novel, "Abe," about the young Lincoln's life?

You know that I am not the Lincoln fan that some are, being a displaced Virginian and all, but I found this book to be very well written and enjoyed it very much.

Not sure about some of the historical content & accuracy.

Rick

Hi Rick. No, I have not read the book, and therefore I am not qualified to comment. I wish I could, but I don't know anything about it.
(07-08-2012 04:31 PM)Dave Taylor Wrote: [ -> ]I remember watching the Nat Geo special entitled, "Lincoln's Silent Killer" which followed Dr. Sotos trying to extract Lincoln DNA from a piece of Laura Keene's dress. The biggest problem I have with Dr. Sotos' theory is Lincoln's lifespan. According to his own research those with MEN2B develop tumors early on and die from cancer at young ages. If Lincoln did have this genetic disorder, it is extremely unlikely he would have lived into his fifties as he did.

Now I suppose it's possible that Lincoln might have had cancer when he was killed. That would be seemingly impossible to prove, though. Even if he did have cancer, I seriously doubt it was caused by an incredibly rare genetic disorder.

Hi Dave. Over the past few years I have exchanged numerous e-mails with Dr. Sotos. I certainly agree with you, and I have mentioned numerous arguments that I think support my position. He has always been very polite in his responses, but I cannot get him to budge. He really is convinced of his theory. I don't think he'd mind if I share a part of an e-mail with the forum that I received from him in 2011; I think it shows how much he feels his theory is right:

"The pictures of Tad and Willie are the most compelling pieces of evidence, and since the book was published I have found a startling picture showing that Willie's lips were abnormal in size as well as shape. These findings cannot be dismissed. There is simply no explanation other than MEN2B for the findings clearly visible in photos of Abraham, Willie, and Tad. Anyone skeptical of MEN2B has to come up with an alternate theory to explain the lip abnormalities. I have tried very hard to do so, but there is nothing in the medical or genetics literature that can."

I am a retired history teacher with no medical background at all. I certainly do not have the knowledge to discuss the intricate details with Dr. Sotos, but perhaps you can see that he really thinks he's on the right track with his theory.

I also agree with Ed Steers and others who have argued Lincoln did not have Marfan's syndrome. I should note that Dr. Sotos also agrees that Lincoln did not have Marfan's.
Based on the comments made by those present at Lincoln's autopsy about his excellent physique and on the fact that the cancer mentioned by Dr. Sotos usually takes a life earlier than the age of 56, all of the information about the physical Lincoln is speculative. The trouble with trying to extract usable DNA from Mary Lincoln's cape or Laura Keene's dress or Dr. Leale's cuffs is that the chain of custody has been repeatedly broken and any DNA might be seriously compromised through contamination. This might also be true for the extant hair samples from Lincoln.

This specualtion about Lincoln and cancer also reminds me of the same guesses about whether FDR died from cancer. In photos from the early 1940s there is a discernible mole present over one of his eyebrows; the mole is gone in photos taken a year or two later. Was it removed? Probably. And since FDR appeared so wan and thin in late 1944 through April 1945, this has led to speculation that he had cancer and probably died from it. I have a copy of clinical notes sent to me some years ago by Dr. Howard Bruenn who made the notes on FDR's condition after treating him in his last year, and all of his conclusions point to congestive heart failure as the contributing factor in FDR's death--not cancer.

While all of the specualtion is interesting, we will never know for sure. Gunshot and cerebral hemmorhage seem to be the only conclusions we can definitely make in the deaths, respectively, of Lincoln and FDR.
Dr. Soto's diagnosis concluding that Lincoln had the rare disease we refer to today as MEN2B is based primarily on "lip lumps" (See Soto, Chapter 14). Secondly, Dr. Soto points out that Lincoln suffered from constipation, which he did (See Chapter 15). I really do not believe the evidence supports such a conclusion. Lip bumps while uncommon were rare, and are a poor indication of MEN2B, and constipation was a widespread condition for which hundreds of compounds, etc. were marketed in the 1860s. This diagnosis falls into the same category as Marfan's. While Lincoln may have had MEN2B and/or Marfan's there is no evidence in my opinion to support such a conclusion. P.S. The claim has also been made that Lincoln had syphilis and infected Mary; and that Booth contracted syphylis which slowly drove him insane causing him to kill Lincoln - all interesting ideas that lack any basis in fact. One thing we do know for sure, Lincoln was NOT a vampire killer. He was too busy defeating the Confederacy.
Does Dr. Soto's make any mention of President Lincoln's dental health?

Seeing the pictures of Seward's jaw brace under "Countdown to July 7" made me curious

and Ed, thanks for mentioning President Lincoln and STD's lacks any basis in fact.
Gene, I do not see anything specifically on teeth. The word "teeth" is not in the index. Some of the main topics of the book are:

Height and Limbs
Hands
Feet
Head, Neck, Chest, Spine, Voice
Joints
Eyes
Cardiovascular
Lips
Gut
Skin
Muscles
Skull
Family Members (sons)

Much of the discussion revolves around Dr. Sotos' opinion that Lincoln DID NOT have Marfan's. In fact I think there are at least as many pages devoted to that as there are that try to show Lincoln may well have had MEN2B.

Dr. Sotos devotes an entire chapter to lips (see Ed Steers' post). Here is an example. The photo (which I scanned from Dr. Sotos' book) is a close-up of Willie, and the caption reads, "The large protruding lower lip has a very large mass just right of the midline, and a smaller mass just left of the midline. The upper lip is consistently asymmetric. Upper eyelids have redundant skin and droop"

[Image: willielips.jpg]


Dr. Sotos believes both Tad and Willie had MEN2B as well as Abraham.
(07-10-2012 12:32 PM)RJNorton Wrote: [ -> ]Gene, I do not see anything specifically on teeth. The word "teeth" is not in the index. Some of the main topics of the book are:

Height and Limbs
Hands
Feet
Head, Neck, Chest, Spine, Voice
Joints
Eyes
Cardiovascular
Lips
Gut
Skin
Muscles
Skull
Family Members (sons)

Much of the discussion revolves around Dr. Sotos' opinion that Lincoln DID NOT have Marfan's. In fact I think there are at least as many pages devoted to that as there are that try to show Lincoln may well have had MEN2B.

Dr. Sotos devotes an entire chapter to lips (see Ed Steers' post). Here is an example. The photo is a close-up of Willie, and the caption reads, "The large protruding lower lip has a very large mass just right of the midline, and a smaller mass just left of the midline. The upper lip is consistently asymmetric. Upper eyelids have redundant skin and droop"

[Image: willielips.jpg]

Dr. Sotos believes both Tad and Willie had MEN2B as well as Abraham.

Mustache-less and beardless photos of Robert show a similar thickening of the lips, and he lived into his 80s. I am still a sceptic.
Dr. Sotos would probably determine that I have MEN2B also. My upper eyelids have redundant skin and droop (but I suspect mine is due to old age!). I had a large protruding lower lip when I was young - my mother said it got that way because I pouted to get my own way... And, we won't mention getting fever blister bumps every time I got an upset stomach.

I apologize for being sarcastic, however, I believe that too many so-called experts are now really grasping at straws for something new to write about Abraham Lincoln.
Pages: 1 2
Reference URL's