Biology and You

You and Your Genes

Who are some famous figures in history with genetic disorders?

The list of people who suffered from genetic disorders throughout history is lengthy—and fascinating. Many of the disorders actually give you a good sense of why a person acted or looked a certain way. For example, President Abraham Lincoln (1804–1865) was tall and lanky, a symptom of Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects 1 in 5,000 people; it most often affects the body’s connective tissues. Another genetically affected person was King Charles II of Spain. The inbreeding of the early European royal families took its toll on many of the offspring, making it possible for genetic defects to pair up. This was the case with King Charles of the House of Hapsburg, who had what is called the “Hapsburg Jaw”—an exaggerated protruding jaw from inbreeding (called prognathism) that caused him to have problems not only with chewing, but with talking.


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