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The Taste and Smell Clinic

July 2017

Historical Aspects of Human Smell Loss

While there are many records in history of people exhibiting blindness and deafness there are few, if any, records of people exhibiting smell loss. One of the first records of smell loss in the current literature is found in Agatha Christie’s novel “Poirot Loses a Client” publishe d in 1937 (1). In this book, Poirot discovers the identity of the presumed murderer by recognizing that he had lost his smell following a viral infection – it is this smell loss which allows Poirot to solve the crime.

To my knowledge no prior record of smell loss in humans has been recorded although loss of smell following a viral infection is a well known anecdotal phenomenon. No report of smell loss is present in the Bible or any other well-known ancient literature.

In The Lancet in 2017 a report of “anosmia” was published as part of the symptom complex experienced by Lorenzo the Magnificent as part or symptom of his acromegaly (2). This aspect, albeit published in 2017, dates back to the fifteenth century. To my knowledge this report represents the earliest known publication of smell loss in humans in historical literature.

  1. Christie A. Poirot loses a client. New York: Dodd Mead; 1937.

  2. Lippi D, Charlier P, Romagnani P. Acromegaly in Lorenzo the Magnificent, father of the Renaissance. 2017; 389:2104.