Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mozart's 140 Deaths

I have a new hero, retired European civil servant, Lucien Karhausen, who takes a hilarious whack at the fantasists who have imagined 140 different causes for Mozart's death:
Many authors have favoured the hypothesis of an acute condition such as influenza; staphylococcal, streptococcal, or meningococcal infection; various septicaemias; scarlatina or measles; typhoid or paratyphoid fevers; typhus; tuberculosis; trichinosis; and so on. Postinfectious glomerulonephritis was first proposed by Barraud in 1905. Schoental, an expert in microfungi, thought that Mozart died from mycotoxin poisoning. Drake, a neurosurgeon, proposed a diagnosis of subdural haematoma after a skull fracture identified on a cranium that is not Mozart’s. Ehrlich, a rheumatologist, believed he died from Behçet’s syndrome. Langegger, a psychiatrist, contended that he died from a psychosomatic condition. Little, a transplant surgeon, thought he could have saved Mozart by a liver transplant. Brown, a cardiologist, claimed he succumbed to endocarditis. On the basis of a translation error of Jahn’s biography of Mozart, Rappoport, a pathologist, thought Mozart died of cerebral haemorrhage. Ludewig, a pharmacologist, suggested poisoning or self poisoning by drinking wine adulterated with lead compounds. For some, Mozart manifested cachexia or hyperthyroidism, but for others it was obesity or hypothyroidism. Ludendorff, a psychiatrist, and her apostles, claimed in 1936 that Mozart had been murdered by the Jews, the Freemasons, or the Jesuits, and assassination is not excluded by musicologists like Autexier, Carr, and Taboga.
This sort of post mortem diagnosis may be amusing dinner table conversation for medical enthusiasts both professional and amateur, but it has no validity as scholarship and people should stop paying attention to it. We will never know what killed Mozart, and I for one can live with that.

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