“The Chinese must have done it – killed Beethoven!” No, not really.
Beethoven looks grumpy here — probably the effect of lead in his body.
An Austrian pathologist has revealed that the famous German composer died of lead poisoning at age 57 in 1827.
As well know, there’s a global outcry nowadays about the poisonous lead in toys and other products made from China. So, one plus one, the Chinese killed Ludwig van Beethoven?
Well, if the German composer bit and munched on a Chinese-made plastic ducky on his bathtub, maybe.
Lead was detected from Beethoven’s hair and then, two years ago, in bone fragments. Those findings strengthened the belief that lead poisoning may have contributed — and ultimately led — to his death.
But Viennese forensic expert Christian Reiter claims to know more after months of painstaking work applying CSI-like methods to strands of Beethoven’s hair.
He said his analysis, published last week in the Beethoven Journal, shows that in the final months of the composer’s life, lead concentrations in his body spiked every time he was treated by his doctor, Andreas Wawruch, for fluid inside the abdomen. Those lethal doses permeated Beethoven’s ailing liver, ultimately killing him, Reiter said.
“His death was due to the treatments by Dr. Wawruch,” said Reiter, head of the Department of Forensic Medicine at Vienna’s Medical University. “Although you cannot blame Dr. Wawruch — how was he to know that Beethoven already had a serious liver ailment?”
Nobody did back then.
Only through an autopsy after the composer’s death in the Austrian capital on March 26, 1827, were doctors able to establish that Beethoven suffered from cirrhosis of the liver as well as edemas of the abdomen. Reiter says that in attempts to ease the composer’s suffering, Wawruch repeatedly punctured the abdominal cavity — and then sealed the wound with a lead-laced poultice.
Although lead’s toxicity was known even then, the doses contained in a treatment balm “were not poisonous enough to kill someone if he would have been healthy,” Reiter said. “But what Dr. Wawruch clearly did not know that his treatment was attacking an already sick liver, killing that organ.”
Whew! Sure glad doctors nowadays are better equipped and more well informed.