Speculating about Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s real cause of death has been a popular sport for years, and now two authors have a provocative theory: brain cancer. The shifting opinions are well documented: FDR’s own doctor, who at first likened the deadly brain hemorrhage to a “bolt of lightning,” admitted in 1970 that the president had ongoing blood pressure and heart problems. In 1979, another author first speculated on a possible melanoma. But the new research is the most in-depth yet.
The authors of FDR's Deadly Secret, Steven Lomazow and Eric Fettman, suspect that the melanoma—perhaps visible in pictures before 1940—spread to the brain. They hypothesize that he lost vision on his left side because of a tumor—an analysis of stumbling speeches he made toward the end of his life suggests he may have been unable to see half of his remarks. In any case, Barron H. Lerner notes in Slate, the possibility that FDR covered up cancer before the 1944 election raises questions about an alternate post-war history, had he come clean. (Read more Franklin D. Roosevelt stories.)