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#1907281 - 06/02/12 05:05 PM Beethoven's Hair  
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:An Extraordinary Historical Odyssey and Scientific Mystery Solved.

I just picked up this book a few weeks ago at a library sale and am 2/3 of the way through it. I think it's absolutely sensational and fascinating. Part Beethoven biography but mostly the story of all the different people who possessed this lock of Beethoven's hair starting with the important pianist/composer Ferdinand Hiller(who as a young boy clipped it off Beethoven the day after his passing).

It's kind of like Mr. Langford's Square Piano but much more interesting.

http://www.amazon.com/Beethovens-Hair-Extraordinary-Historical-Scientific/dp/076790351X

Anyone else read it?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 06/02/12 05:09 PM.
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#1907289 - 06/02/12 05:24 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Here, as opposed to there
I've read it and re-read it, met the author, know the director of the Beethoven Center, etc. I've mentioned it more than once on the forum, but, apparently, you didn't notice.



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#1907300 - 06/02/12 05:43 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: pianoloverus]  
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BUt is the conclusion that there was lead in LvB's hair, compatible with lead poisoning?
My understanding is that this theory of fatal lead poisoning has been discredited.
THe reports of his last days and of his autopsy clearly show that he died of liver failure (cirrhosis) though the etiology is unclear. Probably hepatitis, made worse by alcohol. He did have to undergo abdominal taps to release large amounts of fluid from his abdomen (ascites) and there was some conjecture that wound dressings may have ocntained large amountS of lead. But his doctor's notes clearly say that he kept the wounds dry.
I read some of this info in an article by Professor Eisinger from Mount Sinai that was freely available on the internet. But it is dated 2008. I do not know if there has been any evidence or new data since. Does nayone know?

What does that book conclude?

Last edited by Andromaque; 06/02/12 06:59 PM.
#1907304 - 06/02/12 05:50 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Haven't read the book - but saw the lock of hair at the British Museum in 1970 as part of an exhibit commemorating LVB's 200th B-day. All that separated me from the reddish-brown lock was about 12 inches and a pane of glass. It actually was an emotional experience, and, as far as I was concerned, it was the best thing I saw at the Museum that afternoon.





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#1907305 - 06/02/12 05:54 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: pianoloverus]  
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I read it when it came out. It's a great historical adventure story.

#1907314 - 06/02/12 06:21 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: pianoloverus]  
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I'm more interested in Chopin's preserved heart in Poland, though I don't believe it can be viewed - really disappointing. frown

#1907317 - 06/02/12 06:29 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: pianoloverus]  
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I've read the book and recommend it.


Best regards,

Deborah
#1907341 - 06/02/12 07:24 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: JoelW]  
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Originally Posted by scherzojoe
I'm more interested in Chopin's preserved heart in Poland, though I don't believe it can be viewed - really disappointing. frown


grin thumb


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#1907352 - 06/02/12 08:01 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: JoelW]  
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Originally Posted by scherzojoe
I'm more interested in Chopin's preserved heart in Poland, though I don't believe it can be viewed - really disappointing. frown


No, you can't, but you can still feel the power:

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#1907365 - 06/02/12 08:44 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: pianoloverus]  
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This may sound creepy but they should have preserved his whole body and made him accessible to the public. Imagine standing next to Chopin today, and looking into his face. I think I would literally cry.

#1907371 - 06/02/12 09:07 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: JoelW]  
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Originally Posted by scherzojoe
This may sound creepy but they should have preserved his whole body and made him accessible to the public. Imagine standing next to Chopin today, and looking into his face. I think I would literally cry.


That is creepy, but Chopin fans are funny that way. smile

#1907377 - 06/02/12 09:19 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: Damon]  
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Originally Posted by Damon
Originally Posted by scherzojoe
This may sound creepy but they should have preserved his whole body and made him accessible to the public. Imagine standing next to Chopin today, and looking into his face. I think I would literally cry.


That is creepy, but Chopin fans are funny that way. smile

And Liszt fans aren't? laugh


Jason
#1907384 - 06/02/12 09:50 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: JoelW]  
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Originally Posted by scherzojoe
This may sound creepy but they should have preserved his whole body and made him accessible to the public. Imagine standing next to Chopin today, and looking into his face. I think I would literally cry.


It would be definitely be a wonderful experience!



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#1907386 - 06/02/12 09:57 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: argerichfan]  
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Originally Posted by argerichfan
Originally Posted by Damon
Originally Posted by scherzojoe
This may sound creepy but they should have preserved his whole body and made him accessible to the public. Imagine standing next to Chopin today, and looking into his face. I think I would literally cry.


That is creepy, but Chopin fans are funny that way. smile

And Liszt fans aren't? laugh


I think anyone with a sentimental connection to a particular historical figure can feel this way. It's such an odd feeling - I don't even really know how to put it into words.

#1907389 - 06/02/12 10:13 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: argerichfan]  
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Originally Posted by argerichfan
Originally Posted by Damon
Originally Posted by scherzojoe
This may sound creepy but they should have preserved his whole body and made him accessible to the public. Imagine standing next to Chopin today, and looking into his face. I think I would literally cry.


That is creepy, but Chopin fans are funny that way. smile

And Liszt fans aren't? laugh


I wonder if you took the opportunity to actually imagine a man, 163 years or so dead, being preserved for public display, looking into his face, and crying. That's disturbing.

#1907390 - 06/02/12 10:15 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: JoelW]  
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Originally Posted by scherzojoe
This may sound creepy but they should have preserved his whole body and made him accessible to the public. Imagine standing next to Chopin today, and looking into his face. I think I would literally cry.


I don't know what you think a "preserved" body looks like, but trust me, it really doesn't looked preserved. "Preserved" is a relative term. It looks very gory and denatured. It's not the sort of thing to inspire glorious memories of artistic triumphs. More like it will put you off your dinner and give you a few nightmares. Not only that but the body still keeps decaying - albeit at a slower rate. Not to mention the idea that the generally accepted idea that the dead should be put to rest...

#1907394 - 06/02/12 10:23 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: Damon]  
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It's an absurd thought, not meant to be taken too seriously - but I'm sure a body would remain in fantastic condition for that long in a vat of formaldehyde.

#1907420 - 06/02/12 11:18 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: JoelW]  
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Originally Posted by scherzojoe
It's an absurd thought, not meant to be taken too seriously - but I'm sure a body would remain in fantastic condition for that long in a vat of formaldehyde.


Another absurd thought, right?

#1907453 - 06/03/12 01:26 AM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: Carey]  
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Originally Posted by carey
Haven't read the book - but saw the lock of hair at the British Museum in 1970 as part of an exhibit commemorating LVB's 200th B-day. All that separated me from the reddish-brown lock was about 12 inches and a pane of glass. It actually was an emotional experience, and, as far as I was concerned, it was the best thing I saw at the Museum that afternoon.





It IS an emotional experience isn't it? By the way, that's not the same lock of hair.



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

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#1907461 - 06/03/12 02:22 AM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: stores]  
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Originally Posted by stores
Originally Posted by carey
Haven't read the book - but saw the lock of hair at the British Museum in 1970 as part of an exhibit commemorating LVB's 200th B-day. All that separated me from the reddish-brown lock was about 12 inches and a pane of glass. It actually was an emotional experience, and, as far as I was concerned, it was the best thing I saw at the Museum that afternoon.





It IS an emotional experience isn't it? By the way, that's not the same lock of hair.


Actually, I figured that might be the case. I recall that the clipping I viewed in 1970 was obtained by someone other than a young boy. ha And yes, it was an emotional experience - as well as a bit of a shock since, at the time, I wasn't aware that any locks of Beethoven's hair had been preserved.

As for Chopin, I stood by his grave in Paris (Pere Lachaise Cemetery) for a long long time about six years ago. Folks place fresh flowers on it everyday. Very touching.



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#1907468 - 06/03/12 03:05 AM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: Carey]  
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Originally Posted by carey

As for Chopin, I stood by his grave in Paris (Pere Lachaise Cemetery) for a long long time about six years ago. Folks place fresh flowers on it everyday. Very touching.


Me too. I almost thought I had to spend the night there because it was very late and I hadn't noticed. smile



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#1907484 - 06/03/12 05:54 AM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: pianoloverus]  
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So no one knows about the lead story's conclusions? I know that the lock of hair testing came through the Ira Brilliant Center which owns most of the hair in the Hiller locket. Do they endorse those results? or is the story considered still unsettled?

#1907504 - 06/03/12 07:19 AM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: ChopinAddict]  
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Originally Posted by ChopinAddict
Originally Posted by carey

As for Chopin, I stood by his grave in Paris (Pere Lachaise Cemetery) for a long long time about six years ago. Folks place fresh flowers on it everyday. Very touching.


Me too. I almost thought I had to spend the night there because it was very late and I hadn't noticed. smile

Aw nuts. I was in Paris last month and forgot all about that.


Jason
#1907616 - 06/03/12 01:06 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: Andromaque]  
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Originally Posted by Andromaque
So no one knows about the lead story's conclusions? I know that the lock of hair testing came through the Ira Brilliant Center which owns most of the hair in the Hiller locket. Do they endorse those results? or is the story considered still unsettled?
I didn't read the results of the hair testing very carefully, but I think the book's conclusion was that lead poisoning was the likely cause of most of the large number of ailments Beethoven suffered during his life. I don't think the book said lead poisoning was the direct cause of death.

#1907761 - 06/03/12 06:02 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Andromaque
So no one knows about the lead story's conclusions? I know that the lock of hair testing came through the Ira Brilliant Center which owns most of the hair in the Hiller locket. Do they endorse those results? or is the story considered still unsettled?
I didn't read the results of the hair testing very carefully, but I think the book's conclusion was that lead poisoning was the likely cause of most of the large number of ailments Beethoven suffered during his life. I don't think the book said lead poisoning was the direct cause of death.


Not to belabor the subject, but this is an interesting topic. How did they reach the conclusion about the lead poisoning through Beethoven's life? By history or by testing the hair? If the hair was taken close to the scalp the day after LvB died, it will only reflect the last few days to months of his life and therefore cannot be used to comment on his health months or years ago.
(Hair grows 1 cm per month, from the root.)

#1907777 - 06/03/12 06:15 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: Andromaque]  
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Originally Posted by Andromaque
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Andromaque
So no one knows about the lead story's conclusions? I know that the lock of hair testing came through the Ira Brilliant Center which owns most of the hair in the Hiller locket. Do they endorse those results? or is the story considered still unsettled?
I didn't read the results of the hair testing very carefully, but I think the book's conclusion was that lead poisoning was the likely cause of most of the large number of ailments Beethoven suffered during his life. I don't think the book said lead poisoning was the direct cause of death.


Not to belabor the subject, but this is an interesting topic. How did they reach the conclusion about the lead poisoning through Beethoven's life? By history or by testing the hair? If the hair was taken close to the scalp the day after LvB died, it will only reflect the last few days to months of his life and therefore cannot be used to comment on his health months or years ago.
(Hair grows 1 cm per month, from the root.)
The hairs were quite long. I don't think they ever claimed to be sure that B had lead poisoning for a long time, but said that lead poisoning could explain all of B's many ailments during his lifetime.

#1907799 - 06/03/12 06:39 PM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Andromaque
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Andromaque
So no one knows about the lead story's conclusions? I know that the lock of hair testing came through the Ira Brilliant Center which owns most of the hair in the Hiller locket. Do they endorse those results? or is the story considered still unsettled?
I didn't read the results of the hair testing very carefully, but I think the book's conclusion was that lead poisoning was the likely cause of most of the large number of ailments Beethoven suffered during his life. I don't think the book said lead poisoning was the direct cause of death.


Not to belabor the subject, but this is an interesting topic. How did they reach the conclusion about the lead poisoning through Beethoven's life? By history or by testing the hair? If the hair was taken close to the scalp the day after LvB died, it will only reflect the last few days to months of his life and therefore cannot be used to comment on his health months or years ago.
(Hair grows 1 cm per month, from the root.)
The hairs were quite long. I don't think they ever claimed to be sure that B had lead poisoning for a long time, but said that lead poisoning could explain all of B's many ailments during his lifetime.



Here is an interesting article that critiques the lead findings.

Article

#1907952 - 06/04/12 01:22 AM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: stores]  
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Originally Posted by stores
Originally Posted by carey
Haven't read the book - but saw the lock of hair at the British Museum in 1970 as part of an exhibit commemorating LVB's 200th B-day. All that separated me from the reddish-brown lock was about 12 inches and a pane of glass. It actually was an emotional experience, and, as far as I was concerned, it was the best thing I saw at the Museum that afternoon.


It IS an emotional experience isn't it? By the way, that's not the same lock of hair.


So this is the reddish-brown lock
[Linked Image]

and this the other one?
[Linked Image]

I agree that it must be an emotional experience!



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#1907956 - 06/04/12 01:38 AM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: pianoloverus]  
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I just bought the book. smile



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#1908045 - 06/04/12 06:57 AM Re: Beethoven's Hair [Re: Andromaque]  
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Originally Posted by Andromaque
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Andromaque
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Andromaque
So no one knows about the lead story's conclusions? I know that the lock of hair testing came through the Ira Brilliant Center which owns most of the hair in the Hiller locket. Do they endorse those results? or is the story considered still unsettled?
I didn't read the results of the hair testing very carefully, but I think the book's conclusion was that lead poisoning was the likely cause of most of the large number of ailments Beethoven suffered during his life. I don't think the book said lead poisoning was the direct cause of death.


Not to belabor the subject, but this is an interesting topic. How did they reach the conclusion about the lead poisoning through Beethoven's life? By history or by testing the hair? If the hair was taken close to the scalp the day after LvB died, it will only reflect the last few days to months of his life and therefore cannot be used to comment on his health months or years ago.
(Hair grows 1 cm per month, from the root.)
The hairs were quite long. I don't think they ever claimed to be sure that B had lead poisoning for a long time, but said that lead poisoning could explain all of B's many ailments during his lifetime.



Here is an interesting article that critiques the lead findings.

Article
Without going into much detail, it seems like the author of the article(which I only skimmed)wasn't that familiar with the book. For example the book gave a specific value for the lead content of B's hair and also explained how the hair was "cleaned" beforehand so that any traces of chemicals on the outside of hair were removed. If I read the article correctly, the author doesn't seem to think this information was in the book.

For me, the story of everyone involved with B's hair was the really interesting part of the book. Not whether the scientific findings were the last word or not.

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