In Ludwig van Beethoven’s paternal line, it appears that an extramarital event may have occurred, potentially causing a specific divergence in the composer’s family tree. In brief, these are the results of a study published in the journal Current Biology, conducted by scientists from the University of Cambridge, the Beethoven Center San Jose, the American Beethoven Society, the University Hospital of Bonn, the University of Bonn, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, and FamilyTreeDNA.
The research group, led by Tristan Begg, examined five authenticated strands of hair dating back to the last seven years of the famous composer’s life, obtained through private collectors.
In 1802, Beethoven asked his doctor to leave writings describing the illness that was affecting him. Since then, science has been questioning the reasons behind the deterioration of his health, such as the progressive loss of hearing that led to his deafness in 1818. DNA analysis reveals that Beethoven had contracted hepatitis B, which, combined with significant alcohol consumption, may have contributed to his premature death in 1827 at the age of 56.
However, researchers have not identified a definitive cause for the composer’s clinical problems but have discovered a series of genetic risk factors related to liver diseases. From cirrhosis to jaundice and hepatitis B, the musician seems to have experienced various liver issues throughout his life. “The diaries Beethoven used in the last decade of his life,” notes Begg, “seem to suggest that he regularly consumed alcohol, although it is difficult to estimate the exact amount. This behavior, along with genetic risk factors, may have contributed to the manifestation of cirrhosis.”