John Adam's essential tremor

Elan D. Louis, Patricia Kavanagh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

2 Scopus citations


John Adams (1735-1826), one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was the second President of the United States. Adams had tremor for many years, about which little has been written. We examined John Adams' penmanship over a 62-year period and studied his correspondence and diaries. It is not clear when Adams' tremor began, although in a diary entry dated 6 December 1760, when Adams was 25 years old, there is evidence of low-amplitude kinetic tremor. The tremor continued in his written correspondence, becoming more persistent over time. Later in life, the clarity of his written correspondence diminished, with greater decomposition of characters and a reduction in the size of individual characters. This finding raises some speculation as to whether Adams could have been developing some parkinsonism, although the evidence in favor of this is not compelling. The most likely diagnosis was essential tremor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1537-1542
Number of pages6
JournalMovement Disorders
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Essential tremor
  • History
  • John Adams
  • Palsy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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