Beethoven’s mystery death

Beethoven’s death has puzzled scientists for almost two centuries. Syphilis, tuberculosis, intestinal disease…Many reasons could explain Beethoven death. The most recent explanation, published in a scientific article, is close to a crime novel.

The musician’s autopsy revealed kidneys damage, larger than normal spleen and pancreas. Although there was no tissue analysis under microscope during Beethoven’s time, the diagnosis is clear: it was alcohol cirrhosis with peritonitis disease. Beethoven died from alcohol like many other people so the investigation was over. And yet, the truth still out there.

Regarding the symptoms, it could be certainly hepatitis. One thing remains: hepatitis B or C were unknown until the 20th century; hepatitis A can’t worsen with cirrhosis. Thanks to decades of analysis, scientists have discovered also Beethoven’s lead intoxication.

In 2007, an Austrian doctor said that the lead cataplasms of his own doctor had surely killed the musician. According to American scientists, it was the lead contained in his wine that caused his death. Why would there be lead in his wine? Poisoning by an enemy? The reason is odd but simple. During Beethoven’s time, cheap bottles of wine could be filled with lead to have a better taste. After  his mother died when he was 17 years-old, Beethoven became a heavy drinker. As Beethoven loved drinking these wines, said the scientists, it must have progressively damaged his organs. And it probably explains the problems with his nerves which caused his deafness.

Finally, it seems it was lead rather than alcohol that killed Beethoven.