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Beethoven Died From Lead Poisoning
ABC Science News ^ | 12-7-2005

Posted on 12/07/2005 3:22:00 PM PST by blam

Beethoven died from lead poisoning

Agençe France-Presse
Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Lead poisoning may even have caused Ludwig van Beethoven's deafness (portrait in oil by JK Stieler) (Image: US DOE)

Tests on the hair and skull fragments of Ludwig van Beethoven show the legendary 19th century German composer died from lead poisoning, scientists say.

Bone fragments from Beethoven's skull had high concentrations of lead, matching an earlier finding of lead in his hair, say researchers at the US Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.

"The finding of elevated lead in Beethoven's skull, along with DNA results indicating authenticity of the bone-hair relics, provides solid evidence that Beethoven suffered from a toxic overload of lead," says Dr Bill Walsh, director of the Beethoven Research Project.

"There is no doubt in my mind ... he was a victim of lead poisoning," he says.

Beethoven, whose piano, chamber and symphonic works count as some of the greatest of Western classical music, died at 56 in 1827 after years of struggling with unknown ailments, including progressive deafness in his later years.

He had begun suffering from abdominal pains at 20 that worsened throughout his life, and the composer saw a large number of physicians in search of a cure.

The description of his symptoms and the results of an autopsy shortly after his death are also consistent with lead poisoning, Walsh says.

"Beethoven suffered from bad digestion, chronic abdominal pain, irritability and depression," says Walsh, a medical toxicologist at the Pfeiffer Treatment Center in Warrenville, Illinois.

Walsh also says that lead poisoning may have caused Beethoven's deafness.

Beethoven's hair also contains high levels of lead (Image: DOE)

Powerful x-rays

The tests on the composer's bone fragments were made at the laboratory's Advanced Photon Source, an 800 metre particle accelerator that can fire intense x-rays 100 times brighter than the surface of the Sun.

By directing the x-rays through the bone fragments, the scientists could measure the presence of key elements, without destroying the bones.

The results showed no detectable levels of either cadmium or mercury, the scientists say, which were previously thought to be possible causes of Beethoven's illnesses.

But lead levels were pronounced, and half-life measurements of the lead suggest it was present in Beethoven's body for many years, according to the scientists.

The source of the lead is unknown, but they say some people speculate that Beethoven drank a respectable amount of wine, and the lead may have come from a wine goblet made with the metal.

Alternatively, some medical treatments in the 18th and 19th centuries made use of heavy metals like lead and mercury.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: beethoven; classicalmusic; died; from; godsgravesglyphs; lead; poisoning

1 posted on 12/07/2005 3:22:01 PM PST by blam
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To: SunkenCiv

GGG Ping.


2 posted on 12/07/2005 3:23:06 PM PST by blam
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To: blam


So did a passenger on an American Airlines plane today.


3 posted on 12/07/2005 3:24:05 PM PST by in hoc signo vinces ("Houston, TX...a waiting quagmire for jihadis.")
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To: in hoc signo vinces

We Houston folk... GMTA! LOL!


4 posted on 12/07/2005 3:25:30 PM PST by Frank_Discussion (May the wings of Liberty never lose a feather!)
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To: blam

One wonders if, from a musical perspective, Beethoven would have been half as great without his malady....


5 posted on 12/07/2005 3:25:33 PM PST by r9etb
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To: Frank_Discussion


Couldn't help it.


6 posted on 12/07/2005 3:29:51 PM PST by in hoc signo vinces ("Houston, TX...a waiting quagmire for jihadis.")
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To: blam

Thank God for allowing the genius gift He gave to Beethoven, for the world to enjoy his beautiful music.


7 posted on 12/07/2005 3:30:18 PM PST by BatGuano
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To: BatGuano

I'll second that.

The 9th/4th is the best musical work ever written.


8 posted on 12/07/2005 3:41:13 PM PST by Michael Goldsberry (Lt. Bruce C. Fryar USN 01-02-70 Laos)
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To: r9etb
"One wonders if, from a musical perspective, Beethoven would have been half as great without his malady...."

One wonders. Steven Hawkings...?

9 posted on 12/07/2005 3:41:33 PM PST by blam
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To: blam

Were did the lead come from?


10 posted on 12/07/2005 3:42:53 PM PST by bnelson44 (Proud parent of a tanker!)
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To: in hoc signo vinces
Lol.
Guessing that Ludwig van Beethoven's case wasn't quite that acute.
11 posted on 12/07/2005 3:43:12 PM PST by michigander (The Constitution only guarantees the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.)
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To: bnelson44

Paint used to be one of the biggies in the early 1900s ... not sure about earlier.


12 posted on 12/07/2005 3:45:12 PM PST by BunnySlippers
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To: blam

56 years young, and yet the massive body of works of sheer genius. Just imagine had he lived as long as Haydn or Handel.


13 posted on 12/07/2005 3:50:20 PM PST by montag813
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To: blam

bttt...


14 posted on 12/07/2005 3:56:31 PM PST by sit-rep (If you acquire, hit it again to verify...)
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To: blam
Beethoven Died From Lead Poisoning

What caliber?

15 posted on 12/07/2005 3:58:51 PM PST by tallhappy (Juntos Podemos!)
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To: sit-rep

I hope this isn't considered break news. Fox might interupt Greta with it.


16 posted on 12/07/2005 4:00:33 PM PST by bozzman007 (Mine eyes hath seen the glory...)
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To: montag813
Mozart 35, Schubert 33, Keats 25, Shelley 32, Byron 36, Poe 46, Gershwin 39, many more. It's called making good use of the time you have.
17 posted on 12/07/2005 4:00:39 PM PST by luvbach1 (Near the belly of the beast in San Diego)
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To: bnelson44

"Were did the lead come from?"

I know that lead was commonly used to solder tin cans for food storage. Lead was also used in paints, glass, water pipes, etc.

Having said that, everything I'm reading says that nothing "normal" in his life would've explained this high level.


18 posted on 12/07/2005 4:01:33 PM PST by TWohlford
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To: bozzman007

What do you mean??


19 posted on 12/07/2005 4:04:55 PM PST by sit-rep (If you acquire, hit it again to verify...)
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To: blam

The birth of Heavy Metal.


20 posted on 12/07/2005 4:06:24 PM PST by Fester Chugabrew
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To: blam

When the scientists opened up Beethoven's tomb he was sitting there with a pencil in his hand erasing the notes from some sheet music. "What are you doing?!", the scientists asked Beethoven. "Why, I'm decomposing, of course", he replied.


21 posted on 12/07/2005 4:06:26 PM PST by Lancey Howard
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To: sit-rep

That Beethoven died. Fox is notorius for their breaking news stories that aren't "breaking".


22 posted on 12/07/2005 4:08:18 PM PST by bozzman007 (Mine eyes hath seen the glory...)
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To: Lancey Howard

ZZZZZinnnnnggg!


23 posted on 12/07/2005 4:08:59 PM PST by Fester Chugabrew
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To: BunnySlippers

Lots of lead pots and pans used for preparing food and storing drinking water.


24 posted on 12/07/2005 4:09:43 PM PST by hubbubhubbub
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To: hubbubhubbub

Excellent point. That's it.


25 posted on 12/07/2005 4:10:49 PM PST by BunnySlippers
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To: bozzman007

that's okay... the sun will rise tomorrow. I thought you may have been talking about this place, and blam posted it breaking news. in any event, i concern myself with what interests me... sorry.


26 posted on 12/07/2005 4:15:27 PM PST by sit-rep (If you acquire, hit it again to verify...)
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To: luvbach1
Masaccio, one of the preeminent painters of the early Renaissance died at age 27. As an undergrad I was in an art history class which had a number of grad students enrolled. I remember the prof introducing Masaccio by saying, "This is Masaccio. When he was the same age as some of you, he'd been dead for five years."

A humbling notion to say the least. He started this at 23....

Masaccio, Trinity Fresco

27 posted on 12/07/2005 4:17:55 PM PST by Joe 6-pack (Que me amat, amet et canem meum.)
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To: hubbubhubbub; BunnySlippers
"Lots of lead pots and pans used for preparing food and storing drinking water"

The canning process for food preservation was developed in the late 18th and early 19th century and metallic cans caught on rapidly as a means of food preservation (many of the soldiers at the Battle of Waterloo took rations from metal cans.) At that time, the solder used to seal the cans had a very high lead content which was prone to leach into the foodstuffs.

28 posted on 12/07/2005 4:23:43 PM PST by Joe 6-pack (Que me amat, amet et canem meum.)
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To: blam

Beethoven died?


29 posted on 12/07/2005 4:25:56 PM PST by Age of Reason
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To: Age of Reason

This lead thing also was responsible for the Mad Hatter in the book Alice in Wonderland. Lead Poisening was a real danger for old time hat makers.


30 posted on 12/07/2005 5:04:39 PM PST by BooBoo1000 (Some times I wake up grumpy, other times I let her sleep/)
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To: Age of Reason

This lead thing also was responsible for the Mad Hatter in the book Alice in Wonderland. Lead Poisening was a real danger for old time hat makers.


31 posted on 12/07/2005 5:04:39 PM PST by BooBoo1000 (Some times I wake up grumpy, other times I let her sleep/)
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Did anyone blame Bush for Beethoven's death yet?


32 posted on 12/07/2005 5:17:23 PM PST by sullivan-fan
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To: BooBoo1000

Mercury poisoning. Mercury was used in making the hats.


33 posted on 12/07/2005 7:51:54 PM PST by Pete from Shawnee Mission
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To: blam
Thanks Blam.

Just adding this to the GGG catalog, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list. Thanks.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
"Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list or GGG weekly digest
-- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

34 posted on 12/07/2005 9:38:21 PM PST by SunkenCiv (Down with Dhimmicrats! I last updated my FR profile on Wednesday, November 2, 2005.)
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