Health and Medical History of President

John Tyler

President #10
Lived: 1790-1862 Served: 1841-1845

Timeline from 1776: ← 2013

"Tyler was never in truly good health." 2a

Maladies and Conditions

Tyler was very thin all of his life. 2a

symmetric paralysis
While a 30 year old Congressman in Washington, Tyler developed an illness that remains difficult to diagnose. Based on Tyler's clear description of the illness MORE it would today be described as a symmetric, generalized, subacute paralysis. His recovery was so slow and prolonged that he resigned from Congress for two years 2b.

Possible diagnoses include Guillain-Barre syndrome, myasthenia gravis, tick paralysis, diphtheritic paralysis, and botulism 2c.

Tyler retired to his Virginia estate after leaving the White House. He suffered repeated attacks of dysentery in the summer 2c, the causes of which are unknown 2a.

Tyler had little faith in doctors. He regularly "took the waters" at various spas in Virginia. He became a believer in sulfur hydrotherapy. He also took "massive" doses of calomel regularly, which may have contributed to his gastrointestinal problems. 2c

frequent colds
Tyler frequently suffered from respiratory infections in the winter. 2d

general ills
During the last 8 years of his life, Tyler was afflicted with numerous unspecified aches and pains. He was prone to colds, arthritis, and kidney problems 2c. He wrote: "I have many aches and pains. They will attend on a sexogenarian, however, so be it, for I am convinced that it is all wisely ordained by providence" 2e

In January 1862, while serving in the Congress of the Confederacy, Tyler became dizzy and vomited, as he had in numerous previous episodes. He complained of a chill, and went downstairs for a cup of tea. He then slumped to the floor, unconscious, but revived 2e.

Tyler was ordered to bed the next day, and the day following complained of a suffocating feeling. He was treated with mustard plasters, brandy, and a morphine-containing cough medicine. He died soon afterwards 2e.

Most likely, Tyler died of a stroke. The episodes of dizziness beforehand were probably transient ischemic attacks 2e.

Odds & Ends
23 reviews
14 reviews
12 reviews
7 reviews
Cited Resources
  1. Boller, Paul F. Jr. Presidential Anecdotes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.0195029151 Libraries 80-27092. ap. 97
  2. Bumgarner, John R. The Health of the Presidents: The 41 United States Presidents Through 1993 from a Physician's Point of View. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Company, 1994.0899509568 Libraries 93-42000. ap. 64 bpp. 64-65 cp. 65 dpp. 64, 65 ep. 66
    Comment: Devotes one chapter to each President, through Clinton. Written for the layperson, well-referenced, with areas of speculation clearly identified, Dr. Zebra depends heavily on this book. Dr. Bumgarner survived the Bataan Death March and has written an unforgettable book casting a physician's eye on that experience.
  3. MacMahon, Edward B. and Curry, Leonard. Medical Cover-Ups in the White House. Washington, DC: Farragut, 1987.0918535018 Libraries 87-81241. ap. 15
Other Resources
George Washington · John Adams · Thomas Jefferson · James Madison · James Monroe · John Q. Adams · Andrew Jackson · Martin van Buren · William Harrison · John Tyler · James Polk · Zachary Taylor · Millard Fillmore · Franklin Pierce · James Buchanan · Abraham Lincoln · Andrew Johnson · Ulysses Grant · Rutherford Hayes · James Garfield · Chester Arthur · Grover Cleveland · Benjamin Harrison · William McKinley · Theodore Roosevelt · William Taft · Woodrow Wilson · Warren Harding · Calvin Coolidge · Herbert Hoover · Franklin Roosevelt · Harry Truman · Dwight Eisenhower · John Kennedy · Lyndon Johnson · Richard Nixon · Gerald Ford · James Carter · Ronald Reagan · George Bush · William Clinton · George W. Bush · Barack Obama