What is the Marfan Syndrome?

Marfan Syndrome is a disorder that has an effect on the connective tissues of one’s body. This hereditary disorder varies from person to person. Its affected area will not be the same for everyone who has, some might see effects on the eyes, lungs, and skin while others may experience its effects on their blood vessels, hearts, or skeleton.

The connective tissues of the body are the parts mainly affected due to this Syndrome is. These tissues give strength and support in addition to elasticity to tendons and other vitals of the body.

Usually, people having Marfan Syndrome are thin and tall. They also tend to have long arms, fingers, legs, and toes which may be disproportionate. Some of them even tend to have Scoliosis (a bent spine).

Typically Marfan Syndrome patients are advised to keep their blood pressure low. Other treatment includes corrective eye measures (glasses or contacts) and surgery as per the area affected.

History of Marfan Syndrome

The Syndrome is named after a French paediatrician by the name of Antoine Marfan. In 1896 Dr. Antione Marfan found this in a little girl who had unusually long fingers and limbs. In reality, the girl had been suffering from another (related) disease, so while she led to the discovery of the Syndrome, it turned out to be a fluke.

In the 1986 Berlin nosology, the disease was presented with the official diagnostic criteria and was described in detail. Subsequently, it was reviewed in the Ghent nosology and the later Revised Ghent nosology in the year 1996 and 2010 respectively.


Mutations of the gene FBN-1 coding are the main cause of this Syndrome, the coding pertains to the protein fibrillin-1. The protein in question, along with other proteins, primarily is responsible for providing strength to the connective tissues of the body.  It does so by providing a strong frame, however, due to the mutation the shape of the protein changes which subsequently weakens the frame.

There are other genes that are associated with the condition.

Famous People with Marfan Syndrome

Many see illnesses and diseases as weakness, others decide to not be held back by them and move forward. Despite the potentially life-threatening problems that the Marfan Syndrome can cause, there have been many people who have overcome this ordeal. Perhaps that is what made them great and remembered by history.

These personalities did not give in to the despair that disease brings along with it, instead, through powered through it. Here are 10 famous people who had Marfan Syndrome.

10.Abraham Lincoln

February 12, 1809- April 15, 1865

Abraham Lincoln lived a long and eventful life before his assassination in 1865. There were many reports concerning his health in the public domain. The 16th President of the United States of America is believed to have suffered through depression, smallpox, and even malaria. Lincoln and his relatives have been long since been suffering from Marfan Syndrome is a widely spread speculation.

These speculations have risen owing to the long and thin features of the former President. The long, thin nose on the skinny long face, and not a very broad chest are the reasons which are associated with him having Marfan. These cases are strong as, in the case of Abraham Lincoln, malnourishment can not be the case.

9.Julius Caesar

12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC

One of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. The former consul also died in an assassination. The emperor who tall and skinny with long fingers was allegedly also a victim of Marfan Syndrome. History, though, does not seem to care about that, simply because despite his ailments Ceasar rose to power and went on to being a key player in the rise of the Roman Empire. He greatly expanded the Roman territory not afraid to challenge powers like Britain while doing it.

All of these amazing feats among many others were pulled off, more or less, single-handedly by a person whose frames were not strong enough to hold his tissues with appropriate strength.

8.Osama Bin Laden

March 10, 1957 – May 2, 2011

Born Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden founded the militant organisation al-Qaeda. Despite having a tissue frailties the man managed to wreak havoc in the world using his long thin fingers, and managed to get his long bony face on the most-wanted list of all major anti-terrorist organisations of the world.

It has also been reported in favour of Marfan Syndrome that Osama couldn’t walk and sit straight for long periods of time. In the end the US SEALS claimed his life long before Marfan could.

7.Bradford James Cox

Born: May 15, 1982

A man of many talents and qualities. Bradford Cox is a guitarist, singer, songwriter and actor by occupation. Perhaps the mastery in music stemmed from seeking comfort in it. Recognising Marfan at an early age led to an awkwardness that did not allow him to make a lot of friends and thus music became his comfort.

The Syndrome started to put its pressure on Bradford’s body when he was around the age of ten. His body now awkward left him lonely. This lonely however led to his love of music. As he grew up recognising himself with Edward Scissorhands (played by Jhonny Depp) his taste in music constantly changed, life finally arrived at a stage where his appreciation of music shifted towards more “monotonous or hyptonic” music.

6.Michael Phelps

Born: June 30, 1985

Surprised to see the “Baltimore Bullet” on this list? Surely to see a person with 18 Olympic golds and 39 World Records to his name on this list will come as a shock. Especially considering that Michael Fred Phelps II is a competitive swimmer.

A common feature of people suffering from Marfan Syndrome tends to be an arm span longer than their height. This also happens to be the case for 6’4″ Phelps whose arms span is 6’7″.

5.John Tavener

January 28, 1944 – November 12, 2013

The British composer who has given us grand pieces like, “The Whale” and “Song for Athene” has been riddled with medical complications throughout his life.

Only in his thirties, he suffered a stroke and coronary surgery. In his forties got his tumour removed and was struck by two consecutive heart attacks leaving him in a very weak state.

1990, a year before he married his second wife Maryanna Schaefer, he was positively diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome. His wife, Lady Maryanna, even went ahead to appeal, through broadcast, for a charity on behalf of the Marfan Trust in October of 2008.

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Anyone who knows anything about Egyptian history has heard of the name, Tutankhamen, otherwise known as King Tut. There are many mysteries surrounding the young Pharaoh who died when he was just 19 years old, ending his dynasty with his death. Despite his only decade-long rule, King Tut made many remarkable events happen during his reign. Restoration of the Ancient Egyptian religion and the shift of the capital from Akhetaten to Thebes.

It has been theorised that Tutankhamen was suffering from Marfan Syndrome as well due to his supposed build. There was a genetic testing done through the use of STR analysis which also rejects this hypothesis, however, it is all speculation and nothing can be claimed with certainty.

3.Jonathan Larson

February 4, 1960 – January 25, 1996

A composer and playwright by occupation he was often seen exploring social issues like addiction and homophobia through his works. He was one of the people who lost his life to an undiagnosed Marfan Syndrome. Sadly this event took place on the morning of Rent’s first preview performance off-Broadway. Rent is his legacy now, it is the 11th longest-running show in the history of Broadway, and had a film version released in 2005.

2.Vincent Schiavelli

November 11, 1984 – December 26, 2005

The actor who notable work on stage, television, and the big screen, Vincent Schiavelli was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome in his childhood itself. Despite the diagnoses, he went to do gain fame, mainly through supporting roles, by playing characters like Dr. Kaufmann in Tomorrow Never Dies and the Organ Grinder in Batman Returns.

Vincent also served with The National Marfan Foundation, an organisation helping those affected by the hereditary disease. He was an honorary co-chair in the foundation.

The unknown-by-name actor eventually died because of lung-related issues.

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1.Niccolo Paganini

October 27, 1782 – May 27, 1840

The most respected and celebrated violinist of his time, he had the ability to play three octaves across four strings. This is a god-like task even in today’s time, this was enabled by his unnaturally long fingers which have been thought to be the result of Marfan Syndrome.

Niccolo was reputed and rumoured to have been affected by Marfan Syndrome or the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Even otherwise, the maestro saw himself through various illnesses and diseases but still managed to leave his mark on the world.