Daniel J. Wakin reviews the latest theories on the causes of death of our greatest musical composer, for the New York Times:
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Direct medical evidence? None. Autopsy? Not performed. Medical records? Nowhere to be found. Corpse? Disappeared.
Yet according to a recent article in an academic journal, researchers have posited at least 118 causes of death for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
A modest industry of medical speculation has grown up around the subject, evidence of our fascination with what cut down great creative artists in history. In Mozart’s case published speculation began within a month of his death in 1791, and musicologists, physicians and medical scholars have regularly joined the fray ever since.
Dr. William J. Dawson, a retired orthopedic surgeon who is the bibliographer for the Performing Arts Medical Association, decided to organize the theories. He examined most of the 136 entries in the association’s database dedicated to Mozart’s death, a list by no means comprehensive.