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 Beethovens genoom in kaart gebracht infographic
Graphic shows findings based on genetic data extracted from hair of German composer, Ludwig van Beethoven.


Beethovens doodsoorzaak onthuld uit haarlokken

By Jordi Bou

March 23, 2023 - Using DNA from locks of Beethoven’s hair, an international team of researchers suggest that the composer died from liver disease brought on by a combination of factors nearly 200 years ago.

The researchers analysed eight locks of hair from public and private collections in the U.S. and Europe, determining that five of them matched and were almost certainly authentic as his. The best-preserved one, called the Stumpff Lock was used to sequence his genome.

Beethoven had a likely genetic predisposition to liver disease and a hepatitis B infection months before his death, tests have revealed.

University of Cambridge biological anthropologist Tristan Begg, lead author of the study published in the journal Current Biology, said genetic risk factors, coupled with Beethoven's high alcohol consumption, may have contributed to his liver condition.

Cirrhosis has long been viewed as the most likely cause of his death at age 56.

Also, genetic data from Beethoven and five living relatives revealed there had been a child resulting from an extramarital relationship on his father's side of the family in the generations before the composer's birth.

Ludwig van Beethoven died in Vienna nearly 200 years ago after a lifetime of composing some of the most influential works in classical music

March 26 marks the 196th anniversary of Beethoven’s death in Vienna on March 26, 1827.

PUBLISHED: 24/03/2023; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Newscom, Getty Images, Kevin Brown/University of Cambridge