Some of our favorite actors, composers, writers, musicians, and athletes have died from kidney disease—many of them, far too soon.

Mozart drawing Doris Stock 1789
Mozart drawing by Doris Stock, 1789

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composer, died 1791 most likely from kidney failure (Check out our blog for more on the mystery behind the death of Mozart.)

Emily Dickinson, poet, died 1886 of Bright’s disease

Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild West show entertainer, died 1917 of kidney failure

Sarah Bernhardt, actress, died 1923 of kidney failure

Ida B. Wells, African American journalist, abolitionist, feminist, anti-lynching activist, founding member of the NAACP, died 1931 due to kidney disease

Jean Harlow, actress, died 1937 of kidney failure and uremic poisoning

George Bernard Shaw, playwright, died 1950 of kidney failure

Art Tatum, jazz musician, died 1956 of kidney failure

Ida B. Wells, heroine of the early civil rights movement

Cole Porter, composer, died 1964 of kidney failure

Douglas MacArthur, military leader, died 1964 of kidney failure

Veronica Lake, actress, died 1973 of kidney failure

Howard Hughes, inventor and filmmaker, died 1976 of kidney failure

Edgar Bergen, ventriloquist, died 1978 of kidney diease

Alfred Hitchcock, director, died 1980 of kidney failure

Laurence Olivier, actor, died 1989 of kidney failure and cancer

Robert Cummings, actor, died 1990 of kidney failure

Greta Garbo, actress, died 1990 of kidney failure

Dexter Gordon, jazz musician, died 1990 of cancer and kidney failure

Jean Harlow publicity photo
Actress Jean Harlow

Marlene Dietrich, actress, died 1992 of kidney failure

Erma Bombeck, columnist and writer, died 1996 of PKD and transplant complications

James A. Michener, author, died 1997 of kidney failure

Shirley Hemphill, actress, died 1999 of kidney failure

Ronald Townson, singer, died 2001 of diabetes-related kidney failure

Barry White, singer, died 2003 of kidney failure

Sandra Dee, actress, died 2005 of kidney failure and complications of kidney disease

Billy Preston, singer, died 2006 of kidney failure

Norman Mailer, author, died 2007 of acute kidney failure

Oscar Peterson, jazz musician, died 2007 of kidney failure

Art Buchwald, columnist and writer, died 2007 of kidney failure and diabetes

Bobby Fischer, chess master, died 2008 of kidney failure

Ivan Dixon, actor, died 2008 of kidney failure

Dom DeLuise, comedian, died 2009 of kidney failure and cancer

Manute Bol, basketball player, died 2010 of acute kidney failure

Gary Coleman, actor, died 2010 of FSGS

Ernest Borgnine, actor, died 2012 of kidney failure

Alex Karras, actor and football player, died 2012 of kidney failure

Jonah Lomu, New Zealand rugby player, suffered kidney failure due to nephrotic syndrome, died 2015 from cardiac arrest related to his kidney condition

David Huddleston, actor, died 2016 from advanced heart disease and kidney disease

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Let’s wipe out kidney disease together!