Scientists analyzed what is believed to be a lock of Ludwig van Beethoven’s hair, sequenced the genius composer’s genome – finding the likely combination behind his death at 56, and A potential affair in his paternal line.
An international team of researchers led by the University of Cambridge analyzed eight different strands of hair from public and private collections, five of which are believed to be authentic and came from a European male.
The German composer and pianist was born in Bonn in 1770 and began to suffer progressive hearing loss in his 20s – by 1818 he was functionally deaf. He died in Vienna in 1827 at the age of 56.
While the exact cause of Beethoven’s deafness or gastrointestinal problems could not be pinpointed, the researchers’ findings suggest that a genetic predisposition to liver disease and hepatitis B infection, combined with his widespread alcohol consumption, likely contributed to his death .
Over the past two centuries, many questions have been raised about his death, and speculation began almost immediately after his burial.
Exposure to lead is one of the leading explanations—some scientists think he drank too much cheap wine that was sweetened with lead to mask bitterness, a 19th-century custom.
That possibility was ruled out in a 2010 study, when researchers said a small piece of Beethoven’s skull they examined had no higher levels of lead than the average human skull.
“His drinking was very regular”
Tristan Begg of the University of Cambridge, lead author of the latest study, said the “talk books” Beethoven used in the last decade of his life showed that “he drank very regularly, although it was difficult to It is estimated that its quantity is consumed”.
He added: “While most of his contemporaries claimed that his drinking was moderate by early 19th-century Viennese standards, there is not complete agreement between these sources and this may still be equivalent to what is known today about Liver harmful amounts of alcohol.
“If his drinking was heavy enough for a long enough time, the interaction with his genetic risk factors offers one possible explanation for his cirrhosis.”
Based on the genomic data, it is unlikely that celiac disease or lactose intolerance was the cause of Beethoven’s gastrointestinal distress, the researchers said.
“We can’t be sure what killed Beethoven,” says Johannes Krauss of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. “But we can now at least confirm that there is a significant genetic risk and HBV infection.
“We could also eliminate several other unlikely genetic causes.”
Mr Begg added, “Given the known medical history, it is likely that some combination of these three factors, including his alcohol consumption, acted synergistically, but future research will have to clarify to what extent each factor is involved” .
Investigation of hair samples did not reveal a simple genetic origin of Beethoven’s hearing loss.
have an affair lineage
The analysis of the hair also found that Beethoven’s immediate paternal affair resulted in a child, which the researchers described as “a pair of additional parent-child events.”
The study shows that this event occurred in the direct paternal line between the conception of Hendrik van Beethoven in Belgium around 1572 and the conception of Ludwig van Beethoven in 1770, seven generations later.
“By combining DNA data and archival documents, we were able to observe differences between Ludwig van Beethoven’s legal and biological family trees,” says Maarten Larmuseau, a genetic genealogist at the University of Leuven in Belgium.
“We hope that by making Beethoven’s genome available to researchers, and possibly adding more validated locks to the original time series, we can one day answer remaining questions about his health and family tree,” Mr Berger said.
The study was published in the journal Current Biology.