Famous people with Gilles de la Tourette syndrome?

F Monaco, S Servo, Andrea Cavanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


Virtually no neurologist nor psychiatrist today can be unaware of the diagnosis of Gilles de la Tourette syndrome (GTS). Although the eponymous description by Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette was published in 1885, familiarity with this syndrome has been achieved only recently. In this article, the two most renown accounts of exceptional individuals retrospectively diagnosed with GTS are critically analyzed: British lexicographer Samuel Johnson and Austrian musician Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In both cases, clinical descriptions have been retrieved from written documents predating Gilles de la Tourette's original publication. The case for Samuel Johnson having GTS is strong, mainly based on Boswell's extensive biographical account. Johnson was reported to have a great range of tics and compulsions, including involuntary utterances, repetitive ejaculations, and echo-phenomena. On the other hand, there is circumstantial evidence that Mozart may have had hyperactivity, restlessness, sudden impulses, odd motor behaviors, echo/palilalia, love of nonsense words, and scatology, the latter being documented in autograph letters ("coprographia"). However, the evidence supporting the core features of GTS, i.e., motor and vocal tics, is rather inconsistent. Thus, GTS seems to be an implausible diagnosis in Mozart's medical history and completely unrelated to his undisputed musical genius. (C) 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-490
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009


  • Famous people
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Gilles de la Tourette syndrome
  • Tics
  • Samuel Johnson


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