By analyzing DNA extracted from Beethoven’s hair, information about his ancestry, medical background, and potential cause of death can be inferred

On Wednesday, a recent study was published that drew various conclusions regarding Ludwig van Beethoven’s family history and medical background.

The study involved a genomic analysis of DNA samples obtained from eight hair strands that were attributed to the renowned composer. The researchers discovered that Beethoven had a hereditary inclination towards liver illness and had contracted a hepatitis B infection that damaged his liver in the months leading up to his death.

The study’s authors, published in the journal Current Biology, indicated that these elements, in combination with Beethoven’s habitual drinking, could be “credible explanations” for his demise in 1827.

Out of the eight hair strands examined, one was recognized as a significant historical artifact known as “Hiller’s Lock,” which had been analyzed previously and featured in a bestselling book and a documentary. Investigations of the lock had proposed that Beethoven may have perished due to lead poisoning.

However, in this recent analysis, the researchers discovered that the lock did not belong to Beethoven but instead to a woman of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.

Furthermore, according to the study’s findings, a family in Belgium that believed they were directly related to Beethoven and shared his surname were, in reality, not related to him. The reason for this surprise was an “extra-pair-paternity event” detected in Beethoven’s paternal ancestry that was linked to the individuals’ Y chromosomes.

Maarten Larmuseau, a co-author of the study and a professor of genetic genealogy at the University of Leuven in Belgium, suggests that Ludwig van Beethoven’s grandmother might have had an extramarital relationship that resulted in the birth of his father.

While researchers were unable to determine the cause of Beethoven’s enigmatic hearing loss in his 20s or the gastrointestinal issues he faced throughout his life, they did exclude celiac disease and lactose intolerance as potential causes.