• Jake Kielmeyer

The History of Alzheimer’s Part III: Influential People who had Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s has afflicted people for centuries, including some of history's most prominent figures.

One of the most popular US Presidents Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994 and the age of 83. Like most people who are diagnosed, Reagan’s family and friends noticed changes in Reagan's memory as early as 1981 when he referred to his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development as “Mr. Mayor”.

News Reporter Lesley Stahl also noticed symptoms of Alzheimer’s in the president in 1986, when he seemed to forget who she was during an interview. She refrained from reporting this experience when he became alert again later in the interview. Reagan's son, Ron Reagan, suspected that his father began showing signs as early as 1984, which he writes about in his book, “My Dad at 100”. Reagan passed away in 2004 and will forever be remembered as a conservative icon and be credited with ending the Iran hostage crisis and speeding the end of the Cold War.

Malcolm Young was the co-founder and guitarist of AC/DC. The rock band is one of the most prolific in rock history and Young was its leader. He performed as a professional musician from 1969 – until his retirement in 2014 after being diagnosed with Dementia. Today, Young’s legacy lives on through his iconic music and he is regarded as one of the greatest rhythm guitarists of all time.

Norman Rockwell, whose iconic work defined an era, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 1972. Rockwell is best known for his time as a cover illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post and his Four Freedom’s paintings.

The paintings were inspired by Roosevelt's 1941 state of the Union speech and the series was painted in seven months in 1943. The paintings were used by the Treasury Department to sell war bonds and stamps. Rockwell passed away in 1978, and will forever be regarded as one of America's most iconic artists.

Margaret Thatcher served as England's Prime Minister from 1979-1990. Nicknamed the “Iron Lady” Thatcher is best known for her economic policies, winning the Falklands War in 1982, and was voted as the fourth-greatest British prime minister of the 20th century in a poll of academics.

Thatcher also had a close, and at times, strained relationship with Ronald Reagan. The two both survived and assassination attempt, championed conservative policies, and are both regarded as some of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. Against her doctor’s orders, Thatcher attended Reagan's funeral in 2004 and delivered a pre-recorded video eulogy at the service due to her declining health.

Thatcher began experiencing memory loss in the early 2000s and her condition slowly declined until her death in 2013, at the age of 87.

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