Did Benjamin Franklin have syphilis?

So, you heard or read a rumor that Benjamin Franklin had syphilis and want to know if it’s true. You’ve come to the right place. Contrary to any rumor flying around that states the opposite, Benjamin Franklin did not have syphilis or any other venereal disease. The rumor sometimes states that Benjamin Franklin not only had syphilis, but that it was the cause of his death. Not so. So, why the rumor, then?

The ladies’ man

Benjamin Franklin has the reputation of having affairs with various women. Even in life, he was known for being a womanizer. But the truth is that even though he did have affairs, they were not sexual in nature. These were more about enjoying someone’s company and the lively banter that comes with it. Benjamin Franklin was very aware of the risks of sexual promiscuity, especially for the time he lived in when many were just not aware of the possible consequences. Not like today’s world. But Ben Franklin was more aware than the average Joe, so he was very careful about that sort of thing.

Isolation from his wife

While Benjamin Franklin did spend a lot of time away from his wife, sometimes years at a time, this was not because he was protecting her from an STD. One shocking theory suggests that Benjamin Franklin lived estranged from his wife because he blamed her for their son’s dying of smallpox, but that’s drama for another article. Suffice it to say it was not syphilis that kept him away.

If he didn’t die of syphilis, what did he die of?

Not having the clearest of records can make it difficult to pinpoint what his cause of death was. We do, however, have an educated guess at what he most likely died of.

Benjamin Franklin suffered from gout, pneumonia, and a chest infection toward the end of his life with no symptoms of any venereal disease. Due to his pneumonia, he was bedridden and in pain because of the gout. It is most likely that he finally succumbed because of a ruptured lung artery brought on by a combination of pneumonia, pleurisy, and empyema. These last two are an inflamed infection with pus in the space between the lungs and the chest wall.

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