Beethoven’s hair reveals a surprise after 200 years

On a stormy Monday in March 1827, The famous German composer Ludwig van Beethoven passed away after a prolonged illness. Over the years, Beethoven battled a series of ailments which affected both his physical health and his hearing ability, the latter being a cruel irony for a musician of his caliber.

Despite his health problems, Beethoven left a will that asked his brothers to disclose details of his condition to the public.. This wish recently materialized when a team of researchers genetically analyzed authenticated samples of his hair, shedding new light on the composer’s health.

The progressive hearing loss that Beethoven suffered, which It began in his twenties and left him functionally deaf in 1818., was the subject of speculation for a long time. The study revealed that the main cause of this hearing loss was never identified, but possibly was related to reduced tolerance to loud noise and a hearing loss in the highest tones.

In addition to deafness, Beethoven suffered from chronic abdominal pain and bouts of diarrhea from the age of 22. Six years before his death, he showed signs of liver disease, which is believed to have contributed to his death at age 56.

Although previous research suggested lead poisoning as the cause of death, Genetic analysis of hair samples disproved this theory. Instead, he proposed that Beethoven probably died from hepatitis B infectionaggravated by his alcohol consumption and risk factors for liver disease.

Despite these findings, The exact causes of Beethoven’s deafness and gastrointestinal problems remain unknown. Furthermore, Y chromosome analysis revealed a mismatch with modern relatives descended from Beethoven’s paternal line, suggesting an event of extra-pair paternity in previous generations.

Ultimately, this research not only sheds light on Beethoven’s health, It also raises new questions about the life and death of the famous composer. Although Beethoven would never have imagined the secrets that would be revealed through a genetic study of his hair, His desire for the world to understand his hearing loss continues to resonate today.

This study was published in Current Biology.

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