Normally, when a fascinating new article appears in a scientific journal, I’m all over it. Consider 2009 “When Zombies Attack! Mathematical Modelling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection,” in Infection Disease Modelling Research Progress. (Excuse the misspelling; it’s Canadian).
So imagine my excitement when I heard a journal called Medical Problems of Performing Artists just published “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — Controversies Regarding His Illnesses and Health: A Bibliographic Review.” All right! I thought. To the journal’s website! Alas, MPPA is not a free journal. No problem, I’ll just go to the school library’s website and — NO! I’m not a student anymore! I no longer have 24-hour free access to any article in any journal anywhere anytime. It’s a withering revelation. An examination of Biblical structure in Thomas Hardy’s “The Mayor of Casterbridge” in Modern Language Studies? Denied. That analysis of mythological mining spirits in Cornish Studies? Off limits. A review of the ethics of maritime archaeology in Public Archaeology? Kaput.
(Yes, those are real articles I used for real papers in real classes. Thanks, interlibrary loan!)
That alone is enough to make me consider grad school. But for now, I’ll have to settle for this watered-down New York Times article.
Apparently Mozart has become the puzzle du jour in the speculative diagnostics community. According to the literature review, doctors have thought of at least 118 possible diagnoses for the 18th century composer who died at just 35. The list was compiled by William Dawson, a retired surgeon and Performing Arts Medical Association bibliographer. There’s not much evidence: no body, no doctor’s notes. Most data is from accounts by Mozart’s widow and sister. The various explanations fit into five groups:
- Poisoning (Salieri!) (Just kidding!) (Or am I?)
- Infection (including bacterial endocarditis, streptococcal septicemia, tuberculosis, parasitic infestation and rheumatic fever)
- Cardiovascular disease (stroke and congestive heart failure)
- Kidney disease (uremia)
- Miscellaneous (“Schönlein-Henoch syndrome, a rare disorder of the blood vessels”)
“If I had to put two cents on something, it would probably be kidney failure,” Dr. Dawson said. “It was probably the most common diagnosis. People who know more about these things than I consider it the probable principal cause.”
Booooooooooo-ring! I would have voted for Schönlein-Henoch — it’s got umlauts, that’s way cooler.
(By the way, bonus points if you know where the quote from the title came from.)