How Did Mozart Die? Let Me Count the Ways...

| Wed Dec. 15, 2010 4:41 PM EST

The real killers (Photo: Carbon NYC/Flickr)The real killers (Photo: Carbon NYC/Flickr)This, via Brainiac, is undoubtedly the best (only?) academic paper you'll read all week. French doctor Lucien Karhausen, fed up with his colleagues' incessant efforts to figure out what killed Mozart, has taken to the pages of British Medical Journal to settle the matter once and for all. Conclusion? Everyone's full of it:

I have identified 140 (sometimes overlapping) possible causes of death, in addition to 85 other conditions. But Mozart died only once.

Among those 225 diagnoses, Karhausen finds 27 unique psychiatric disorders, and enough physical ailments and conspiratorial assailants to kill Rasputin 10 times over. Researchers have based their diagnoses on translation errors, as well as deep and thoughtful analysis of a misidentified skull:

For some, Mozart manifested cachexia or hyperthyroidism, but for others it was obesity or hypothyroidism. Ludendorff, a psychiatrist, and her apostles, claimed in 1936 that Mozart had been murdered by the Jews, the Freemasons, or the Jesuits, and assassination is not excluded by musicologists like Autexier, Carr, and Taboga.

Epic. As MoJo's Dave Gilson noted back in September, researchers have turned the diagnosis of fictional characters into a medical parlor game, explaining, for instance, that Tintin suffered from hormone deficiency and Tiny Tim from distal renal tubular acidosis.

But if anything, it's even more prevalent with historical figures. To wit: Last month, a Cal State, San Bernardino professor released a study arguing that King Tut was killed by a hippo. That came four years after researchers revealed that King Tut died from a double infection of malaria. Prior to that, researchers believed he had heen murdered. To date, no one has dared suggest that Tutenkhamen might still be alive, but it'd certainly be a provocative thesis and as such probably warrants further study.

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