Unlocking the mysteries of Ludwig Von Beethoven’s hair through DNA Science.

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Unlocking the mysteries of Ludwig Von Beethoven's hair through DNA Science.

Genetics reveals inconvenient truths.   Human hair contains our genetic information as does our spit which is the basis of many of the genetic testing programs such as Ancestry and 23 and Me. Recently, researchers according to the NY Times were able to debunk myths about this famous composer and even learn about his life and death. As the article tells us, in 1827, as Ludwig Von Beethoven lay dying and in pain, grieving friends and families visited and asked for a lock of his hair in remembrance. In the days that followed his death, an autopsy was performed and all his hair was gone.  An analysis of these strands of hair, some being in the hands of wealthy collectors was done by an international team of researchers and published Wednesday in the journal Current Biology. The study debunked that Beethoven may have been black or that he had lead poisoning, which was previously thought.  One sample of his hair actually was from a woman of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, rather than Beethoven himself. A family that shared the same name and were thought to be direct descendent and actually had no actual relationship genetically to Ludwig von Beethoven. Find out what the detective work that began in 1994 discovered, beginning with hair originally auctioned by Sotheby's many years ago.

DNA From Beethoven’s Hair Unlocks Medical and Family Secrets

By analyzing seven samples of hair said to have come from Ludwig van Beethoven, researchers debunked myths about the revered composer while raising new questions about his life and death.

By Gina Kolata Published March 22, 2023 It was March 1827 and Ludwig van Beethoven was dying. As he lay in bed, wracked with abdominal pain and jaundiced, grieving friends and acquaintances came to visit. And some asked a favor: Could they clip a lock of his hair for remembrance? The parade of mourners continued after Beethoven’s death at age 56, even after doctors performed a gruesome craniotomy, looking at the folds in Beethoven’s brain and removing his ear bones in a vain attempt to understand why the revered composer lost his hearing. Within three days of Beethoven’s death, not a single strand of hair was left on his head. Ever since, a cottage industry has aimed to understand Beethoven’s illnesses and the cause of his death. Read more