Back | Home

Schliemann
                                    
the Subject of this Year's Historical CPC

Schliemann - this years CPCHe discovered treasures of ancient Troy and became known as the father of modern archaeology, all while suffering from excruciating ear pain, debilitating headaches, and progressive hearing loss. Heinrich Schliemann died in 1890 after undergoing one of the most advanced ear surgeries of the day, but the exact cause of his death has remained as elusive as the mysteries he explored in life.

Schliemannís death was the focus of the tenth annual Historical Clinicopathological Conference (CPC). The annual event investigates the cause of death or mysterious illness of historical figures. More than 300 alumni, faculty members and students attended the CPC, which was part of the 129th Medical Alumni Association Reunion.

" After studying personal letters and records chronicling his medical and surgical care, I believe that Schliemann died of a brain abscess caused by a bacterial infection contracted during surgery," says Hinrich Staecker, MD, PhD, associate professor of surgery at Maryland and surgeon at the VA Maryland Health Care System. Dr. Staecker, who specializes in hearing loss, revealed his conclusion during the program.

Dr. Hinrich Stoecker

Because he speaks several languages, Staecker was able to study the medical records and original correspondence between Schliemann and his wife. "The descriptions to Mrs. Schliemann of his condition and medical care, and the fact that files had obviously been removed from Schliemannís medical records, were the strongest clues about the cause of his death," he said.

Schliemannís past medical history included tuberculosis as a child and influenza, yellow fever, and malaria as an adult. At age 54, he noted a marked increase in his ear pain, progressive hearing loss, and burning headaches. Despite this, Schliemann continued with the excavations and his desire to become famous.

He was "energetic, intelligent, observant, rich, and pushy," according to scholar and historian Donald F. Easton, PhD, from London, who took part in the new excavations at Troy in the 1990s. "Also physically fit, Dr. Donald EastonSchliemann was particularly fond of swimming. Even on the coldest days and with ear pain, he would ride his horse to the nearest body of water to swim." At the CPC, Dr. Easton, who was awarded the Schliemann Medal of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, added historical perspective to Schliemannís achievements.

In November 1890, when his earaches and hearing loss had finally become intolerable, 68-year-old Schliemann underwent a newly developed surgical procedure to treat the infection in his left ear that had spread to the mastoid bone of the skull.

His surgeon, German ear specialist Professor Hermann Schwartze, and others, declared the operation a success. About a month later, however, while on business in Paris, Schliemann was struck by new pain and complete deafness in his left ear. From Paris, he went to Naples where he suddenly collapsed on Christmas Day.

Although conscious, he was unable to speak and by the next day began to exhibit signs of gradual right-sided paralysis. Surgeons opened his ear and reported that, "the trouble had attacked the brain." Schliemann died later that day.

Morton D. Kramer, '55 and Barbara FeinPast historical CPCs have explored the deaths of such notables as Edgar Alan Poe, Alexander the Great, Mozart, King Herod, and Florence Nightingale. The Medical Alumni Association expresses its appreciation to Morton D. Kramer, í55, for establishing an endowment fund through the Association to support the annual program.


Back | Home