Cover image for Beethoven in person : his deafness, illnesses, and death
Beethoven in person : his deafness, illnesses, and death
Davies, Peter J., 1937-2005.
Publication Information:
Westport, CT : Greenwood Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xxiv, 271 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Format :


Call Number
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ML410.B4 D28 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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This critical reevaluation of the causes of many of Beethoven's illnesses offers detailed accounts of the treatments applied by his physicians and a comprehensive rendering of the composer's final illness, death, and burial. Separate chapters discuss the causes of many of Beethoven's illnesses, his autopsy and the exhumations. Following the rediscovery of the original Latin autopsy report in 1970, the author has discovered two faulty translations, which he argues contributed to errors in earlier medical assumptions. New evidence disputes earlier assertions that Beethoven's deafness resulted from syphilis. This fascinating account of Beethoven's ailments should appeal to Beethoven enthusiasts and to both the medical and music communities.

Author Notes

Peter J. Davies is a retired Consultant Physician in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Davies (a medical doctor) has published a number of articles on medicine and musicians, mostly on Mozart and Beethoven, and is particularly known for his book Mozart in Person: His Character and Health (CH, Dec'89). Here he offers not only detailed, technical coverage of all of Beethoven's medical problems but also background on medical practice and prominent physicians of Beethoven's time. Included in his discussion are Beethoven's funeral, autopsy, and two exhumations. Davies's method is to examine the pros and cons of all of the diagnoses that have been offered in literature on Beethoven (one finds, for example, 20 different diagnoses of his hearing loss) and then draw conclusions from the perspective of current medical practice. The book is thoroughly documented and draws on a wide range of primary and secondary musical and medical sources. A glossary of almost 150 medical terms is very helpful, though numerous terms are omitted. Davies also includes an appendix chronologically listing Beethoven's works; unfortunately (and in contrast to the Mozart volume) he does not index the composer's works. Recommended for large collections; all levels. R. R. Smith Rhode Island College

Table of Contents

Tablesp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Abbreviationsp. xvii
Medical Chronological Calendarp. xix
1 Beethoven's Physicians and Their Treatmentsp. 1
2 The Accounts of Beethoven's Deafnessp. 42
3 Beethoven's Appearancep. 66
4 Final Illness, Death, and Burialp. 71
5 The Autopsyp. 100
6 The Exhumationsp. 108
7 The Question of Venereal Disease: A Critical Reevaluationp. 121
8 The Cause of Beethoven's Deafnessp. 135
9 Gastrointestinal Disordersp. 164
10 Liver Diseasep. 177
11 Respiratory Catarrhsp. 189
12 Rheumatic Complaintsp. 193
13 Headachesp. 196
14 Eye Disorderp. 200
15 The Cause of Beethoven's Deathp. 207
Appendix 1 Beethoven's Conversation with Herr Sandrap. 217
Appendix 2 Beethoven's Compositionsp. 219
Glossary of Medical Termsp. 233
Select Bibliographyp. 243
General Indexp. 253
Index of Beethoven's Works in This Volumep. 261