[Note: This post has been updated (1) as of 3:14 PM Eastern on 30 Aug. See below.]
If the conclusion reached in this study is in fact a true picture of the facts of the case, then the world of music has much about which to be disturbed. Beethoven died by virtue of medical incompetence, needn't have died when he did, and might have lived to create who knows how many more masterworks.
Ludwig van Beethoven died on March 26, 1827, after four months of misery on a dirty straw mattress in Vienna. What brought on that downward spiral? Lead poisoning accidentally caused by his own doctor, says a journal article published today.
The article in the Beethoven Journal, published by San Jose State University's Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, lays the composer's crash at the feet of Dr. Andreas Wawruch and his bedside remedies. His demise at 56 put an end to years of depression and mysterious physical ailments, but, according to the article, it didn't have to happen when it did.
(Our thanks to ArtsJournal for the link.)
Update (3:14 PM Eastern on 30 Aug): Miss Mussel of The Omniscient Mussel has some thoughtful things to say regarding this matter, but sadly found it necessary to set up a straw man to set the stage for her remarks. She quotes our above opening words, and then comments,
This is just one example of a popular argument, the "if this [insert tragic event] didn't happen then imagine what [insert name of genius] could have created!" The implication is, of course, that the world would have been a better place and that since creativity is always a linear progression, we have therefore missed out on the best of the nominated genius' output.
Somehow this seems a hopelessly naive and dewy-eyed approach. Not so much for its optimistic ideals (the best is yet to come), as the fact that it ignores wholesale the fact sometimes death is preferable to life.
We, of course, neither said nor implied anything of the sort, nor did what we write "ignor[e] wholesale the fact [that] sometimes death is preferable to life."
The straw man aside and notwithstanding, what Miss Mussel has to say (with much of which we are in complete agreement) is worth your time reading.