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Did Ben Franklin kill Beethoven and Mozart?

  1. Aug 21, 2005 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    http://www.abqtrib.com/albq/nw_local/article/0,2564,ALBQ_19858_3862998,00.html
     
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  3. Aug 21, 2005 #2

    Ivan Seeking

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    btw, the title is intended to be a little tongue'n cheek, but the very notion that this could even be remotely possible seemed too incredible to pass. In any event it is an interesting story.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2005
  4. Aug 21, 2005 #3

    Math Is Hard

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    What a peculiar story. It seems that Franz Mesmer was also a fan of the armonica and used this in his unusual treatment of patients.
    http://www.glassarmonica.com/armonica/mesmer/index.html

     
  5. Aug 21, 2005 #4
    I think it does have some credence and could have been an influence in there deaths. Of course, how it could be proven is another story and highly unlikely. In today's terms, it's kinda like Benzene which is in some prescription drugs which the WHO states has no safe levels of consumption. Fluoride is another example which has been put in water supplies in trace elements and used in toothpastes. Being highly toxic and with no health benefits resulting from any studies done, Aluminum companies had to find a way to get rid of all the waste and it was used as Rat poison until these companies lobbied to get rid of it by putting it in the water supply and then in toothpaste since some study showed that kids ages 9-12 gained little benefit in fighting plaque, even though every other age group showed significant worsening due to the sodium fluoride.
     
  6. Aug 22, 2005 #5
    The Glass Harmonica definitely got a reputation for causing nerve damage, but the place I first read this (I'm trying to remember which book) attributed it to the vibration of the fingers that touched the rotating glass. IIRC the "damage" mentioned was loss of sensation in those fingers.

    I'm not sure it's physically possible to absorb enough lead from lead crystal through the skin to hurt someone. I've been under the impression lead had to be ingested to cause harm: people are warned not to eat from lead-glazed pottery, but not warned against touching it.

    The people who got nerve damage from the Glass Harmonica were the professional players. I very much doubt Mozart and Beethoven fooled around with it long enough to be a risk, whatever the actual agent of damage is.
     
  7. Aug 22, 2005 #6

    arildno

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    As for Beethoven, he most probably died from lead poisoning.
    But as I've heard it, it was because Ludwig was inordinately fond of fish, and there are strong reasons to believe that the fish had a lot of lead in them (from industrial waste of some sort, don't ask me what)
     
  8. Aug 22, 2005 #7

    SGT

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    Lead crystal has been used in the making of glasses and carafes for a long time and I have never heard of people poisoned from drinking from a lead crystal glass liquid that was primarily contained in a lead crystal carafe.
    On the other way, lead was used in white and yellow painting and arsenic in green painting.
    One theory attributes Napoleon's death to arsenic poisoning from the green wallpaper in his house at St Helena.
     
  9. Aug 22, 2005 #8
    This is the first I've heard of this. What are you basing this on?
     
  10. Aug 22, 2005 #9

    arildno

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    I heard it on a Norwegian radio program sent over a year ago.
    It was sort of a popular lecture, I think, by some doctor i can't remember the name of. he might have been wrong, though.

    here's a CNN link from 2000:
    http://archives.cnn.com/2000/HEALTH/10/17/beethoven.hair/
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2005
  11. Aug 22, 2005 #10
    I did some googling, and lead crystal is, in fact, named as a possible household source of lead poisoning.

    Lead poisoning
    Address:http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Lead_poisoning?OpenDocument

    I don't know what to make of this because it doesn't seem possible that you could leach enough lead out of it to do much harm. Eating a paint chip full of lead oxide, on the other hand, would give you quite a large direct "dose."

    The mystery could easily be solved, I suppose, by storing some liquid in lead crystal, and then determining its lead content.

    The glass harmonica has to be played with a wet finger. To the extent any of the players occasionally wet their fingers in their mouth while practising or fooling around on the instrument, they could have ingested lead directly.
     
  12. Aug 22, 2005 #11
    I know about that lock of hair and know it was kept in a kind of special glass frame. 100 times the normal amout of lead? I wonder if anyone checked to see if the glass of the frame was lead crystal, or if there were any source of lead in the frame where it was encased for decades?

    Beethoven had alot of things wrong with him. In addition to the chronic abdominal pain and "indigestion", he developed gout and "weak eyesight".

    His actual death was complex. Staying in bed most of the time, (presumably due to the gout), he became feverish. He asked his nephew to get a doctor but the nephew went off to play billiards instead, and the doctor didn't show up till three days later. He diagnosed B. with pneumonia.

    Recovering from that, he nevertheless had more intense "liver and intestinal" pains, and his feet became swollen. At this point he was "operated on". That's all the book says, and there is no telling what the doctor might have done to him unless I find a more detailed source. That was Dec. 1826.

    He lingered till March 24, 1827, asked for last rites, and dozed off, only to be awaken briefly during a violent thunderstorm. "Beethoven raised his arm and stretched out his hand to the sky. Then fell back motionless."

    That's all culled from The Life & Times of Beethoven, Gino Pugnetti, Curtiss Publishing Co. 1967.
     
  13. Aug 22, 2005 #12

    SGT

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    I don´t know if it is true with lead, but if a painting containing copper arsenide (Scheele´s green) is applied to a wallpaper and because of humidity, the wallpaper becomes moldy, the mold gets rid of the arsenic in a gaseous mixture of arsine, dimethyl and trimethyl arsine. If you breath this vapour you can get very sick and even die, if the exposition is long enough.
     
  14. Aug 23, 2005 #13

    Ivan Seeking

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    http://www.pbs.org/benfranklin/l3_inquiring_glass.html

    Mozart Composition
    Real Player
     
  15. Aug 23, 2005 #14
    "Some of the people who performed regularly on the armonica complained that the instrument was upsetting them emotionally. They said that the vibrations were entering their fingertips and causing mental anguish."

    Indeed, lead poisoning aside, if you play around with sounding a wine glass by rubbing your finger around the rim, it starts to get too intense pretty quickly, both for the finger and to your ears.

    Franklin, himself, though, apparently played his armonica frequently, we learn from this link, and doesn't seem to have had an adverse reaction.
     
  16. Aug 23, 2005 #15

    Math Is Hard

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    I just listened to that clip and found the sound of the instrument screechy and annoying. There's something about the pitch that makes me cringe.
     
  17. Aug 23, 2005 #16
    Lead was everywhere back then, from the pewter they ate off, to the power they did there hair with. I would imagine anyone other then the poor{who ate off wood trenchers} would have a very high lead count.
     
  18. Aug 24, 2005 #17
    How is the intonation? (It won't play for me.) It seems to me it would be just about impossible to cast a series of bowls all in perfect tune, and I'm not sure how they would tune them after the fact, except by making them slightly oversized and abrading them down to the proper pitch. Be an awful lot of work.
     
  19. Aug 24, 2005 #18

    hypnagogue

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    The sound clip didn't work for me either. You can download an mp3 of "Adagio in C for Glass Armonica" by Mozart here.
     
  20. Aug 25, 2005 #19
    Just beautiful! Thanks for the link. I found it very relaxing with great resonance.
     
  21. Aug 25, 2005 #20
    I guess there are three kinds of people in this world: those who hate the glass armonica, those who love it, and those who can't get any links to play it for them.
     
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