Easily recognized by even his contemporaries, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart perhaps was ‘too much’ of a genius. And there were ‘too many’ speculations about his ‘too early’ death, among them the theory that Mozart might have been poisoned. Biographical details as well as epidemiological studies, taken together, however make it plausible that Mozart might have died in consequence of the outbreak of a bacterial infection, which particularly affected young men during the winter season 1791/1792 (see Zegers et al., 2009). Throughout his lifetime, Mozart suffered from streptococci, which are known to cause immunological reactions that may affect the joints, the heart and even the kidneys. European doctors from the 18th century believed in bloodletting as the primary form of treatment, which obviously worsened Mozart’s condition. Interesting to note in the context of 18th century medical beliefs, Wolfgang and his sister Maria Anna (Nannerl) were the only 2 of 7 children who survived at all, despite the fact that they were fed with water rather than breast milk, as breast milk was thought to be unhealthy. As regards infectious outbreaks, these were extremely common in Vienna of the 1700s, much before the time of antibiotics, and owed to poor hygienic conditions. Despite a much broader availability of antibiotics, bacterial infections and immunological reactions to bacteria in various organ systems are still among the leading causes of death, all through nowadays.

Author: Marcus Säemann (Translation: Manfred Hecking)