The life of the Russian composer Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich (25 September 1903 - 9 August 1975) was marked by chronic ill health. There is evidence that he suffered from a progressive asymmetric weakness of the limbs. The diagnosis of his condition eluded multiple physicians and was never conclusively identified. Despite enduring an insidious 20-year course, Shostakovich remained a prolific composer and performer. His remarkable cultural contributions, in the setting of such adversity, continue to inspire other people beset with chronic paralytic illnesses such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.