Beethoven may have died from lead poisoning

Ludwig Von Beethoven, one of the world’s greatest classical composers, lost his hearing and died from copious amounts of cheap wine he drank because it contained lead, which, at the time, people considered a sweetener, according to “The Disturbingly Long History of Lead Toxicity in Winemaking.”

The bottles’ corks were soaked in lead, and the wine also contained lead to sweeten it. 

The New York Times reported that he drank more than one inexpensive bottle per day. Scientists were studying his hair to learn why he became deaf. Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 is a choral symphony, Beethoven’s final complete symphony, which he could not hear because of his loss of hearing.

Lead exposure results in hearing loss and disruption of the cochlear blood–labyrinth barrier and the protective role of iron supplements. Beethoven had high levels of lead in his body.

Some of Beethoven’s hair had 258 grams of lead per gram, and other pieces had 380 micrograms compared to a normal level of less than 4 micrograms of lead per gram. 

Scientists said lead poisoning caused many ailments, including diarrhea. He died March 26, 1827, at age 56, in Vienna, Austria.

After his death, a “gruesome” autopsy was performed in which “they really roughly cut off the top of his head,” as well as the bones in his ears, in order to examine his brain for deafness. 

Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany, in 1770 to a Flemish family in what is now The Netherlands. 

He moved to Vienna in 1792 and spent most of his life there. He is widely regarded as classical music’s most innovative composer and is credited with bridging the Classical and Romantic periods.

A number of scholars argue that he was a Black man because of his swarthy complexion and the texture of his hair.

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