Abraham Lincoln was an unusual man in a number of ways, not the least of them his startling and haunting looks.
But the proximate cause was my finding this recent Huff Po article discussing the asymmetry of Abraham Lincoln’s face (see slideshow of photos at the link).
It’s not the first time that this phenomenon has been noted and commented on.
In fact, in August of 2007, a retired ophthalmologist named Fishman studied life masks of Lincoln with modern laser scans and concluded that, “The left side of Lincoln’s face was much smaller than the right, an aberration called cranial facial microsomia.” Here’s more: Most people’s faces are asymmetrical, Fishman said, but Lincoln’s case was extreme, with the bony ridge over his left eye rounder and thinner than the right side, and set backward…When Lincoln was a boy, he was kicked in the head by a horse.
Laser scans can’t settle whether the kick or a developmental defect — or neither — contributed to Lincoln’s lopsided face, Fishman said. But, for what it’s worth, I beg to differ with Fishman’s diagnosis.
Here’s a page on cranial facial microsomia, which doesn’t appear to fit Lincoln very well (see also this) Lincoln’s problems affect a different part of the face, for starters.
And his eye problems (Fishman mentions double vision) as well as his headaches, aren’t accounted for, either.I have a different and more parsimonious notion of what ailed Lincoln.I believe he had a mild case of Parry-Romberg syndrome, a condition that usually arises in late childhood or the teen years, and causes one side of the face to begin to degenerate.I am uniquely positioned to make this diagnosis, since even though Parry-Romberg is exceedingly rare, I’ve had the unlikely experience of having been very close to two people (completely unrelated to each other) who have confirmed but mild cases of it.In its more severe forms, Parry-Romberg causes much more facial deformity than Lincoln demonstrated.But in its milder manifestations, it fits the bill exactly. In Parry-Romberg, there is thinning of the underlying bone (often in the cheek and the eye socket), as well as atrophy of the subcutaneous fat involving the affected parts of the face.