Beethoven was adopted!

March 23, 2023, 3:13 AM · least according to the study published by, of all sources, the Wall Street Journal:

Replies (18)

Edited: March 23, 2023, 3:32 AM · Did the WSJ say it was an exclusive story?
Here's one you don't have to subscribe to (I heard the story on Radio 3 news a while ago) - sorry, different story.
March 23, 2023, 3:43 AM · No, it's not a WSJ exclusive; the same story was published also in the L.A. Times, which is likewise by subscription, but the WSJ article is far more detailed. I'm sure other sources have picked it up by now.
March 23, 2023, 4:21 AM · I am not sure adoption is proven.

The underlying research ( refers to an "extra-pair-paternity event" which is a quaint scientific way of saying that the genetics is inconsistent with the published family tree which shows male ancestors back to the sixteenth century. That could be adoption somewhere along the line, but more likely suggests the child of an extra-marital affair.

The paper has nothing to suggest that the genetic discontinuity in the male line occurred at Beethoven's birth rather than an ancestor. In fact the comment that historians have found no baptism record for Beethoven's father might suggest that his was the birth that had to be hushed up.

March 23, 2023, 5:51 AM · +1 for Jonathan's description.
Edited: March 23, 2023, 6:19 AM · Historical death revision is an interesting subject.
In about 1970 I was informed by my neighbour that Bach went blind due to all the work he did by candlelight.
Now I am informed that Bach was fat and both went blind and died as a result of type 2 diabetes.
Beethoven it seems succumbed to booze and hepatitis B.
The clap got most of them, though.
March 23, 2023, 7:32 AM · A lot of people don't seem to be able to resist speculation about historical figures. Entertaining but meaningless. At least this Beethoven paper has some new evidence to discuss, though in terms of causes of death all they found was a genetic predisposition to liver disease plus evidence of hepatitis B.

I suspect the scientists hoped to find out something about his deafness, but that drew a blank.

March 23, 2023, 8:49 AM · A lot of common "historical facts" eventually get debunked.

My favorite is that Guarneri del Gesù made violins when he was in prison. Why anyone could believe the absurdity that in an 18th century Italian prison an inmate would have access to a luthier tools, workbench and materials truly is truly surprising. Back in those days they didn't even provide you a TV.

Edited: March 23, 2023, 9:48 AM · Gordon - the pox or French disease surely?
March 23, 2023, 10:21 AM · Adoption? Perhaps a careless mother or grandmother.
March 23, 2023, 10:22 AM · Hmmmm. So, the following aren't true?

- Beethoven was allergic to cheese pizza.
- He wore a CPAP apparatus at night to control his sleep apnea.
- All of his covid tests were negative.
- He could never remember his computer password.
- He refused to wear a hearing aid.

March 23, 2023, 12:17 PM · @Gordon - as I understand it, the "Clap" (gonorrhea) generally is not life-threatening, although I suspect you are right that many people got it in those days.
March 23, 2023, 12:53 PM · The evidence can not distinguish between adoption and an extramarital affair - the focus here is on the paternal line (Y chromosome). Since we have no genetic information on Beethoven's mother nor his father we do not know either if he was adopted or if the extramarital affair happened at his parent's generation of earlier. We could get a clue if we knew where the ancestors of the 'van Beethoven' genetic donors branched off the same family - that might give an upper limit to where the affair occurred.

Perhaps the funniest thing is that genetically, Beethoven was actually not a Beethoven at all! Indeed, I am surprised that the researchers did not go the next step and compare his DNA to the total database to see if there were any close links to another family.

Edited: March 23, 2023, 2:14 PM · I was being hwimsical.
March 24, 2023, 1:40 PM · Jonathan Bennett wrote... "I suspect the scientists hoped to find out something about his deafness, but that drew a blank."

I had always understood that Beethoven had syphilis, which can indeed cause deafness.

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