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Name/Profession Birth Date (Place) - Death Date (Place) Medical and other life history Cause of death Remarks
Jacob Obrecht / Composer (masses, motets) 1450 (Bergen-op-Zoom (Brabant)) - July, 1550 (Ferrara (Italy)) No details. Plague (Yersinia pestis) Johan Sebastian Bach and Claudio Monteverdi narrowly escaped the same plague outbreak by luck.
Robert A. Schumann / Composer (romantic, songs, symphonies, opera, choral and chamber music) 08/06/1810 (Zwickau (Germany)) - 29/07/1856 (Endenich (near Bonn, Germany)) Hand injury prevented him from becoming a pianist. He attempted suicide later in life. Syphilis (Treponema pallidum) Died in asylum from progressive neurosyphilis. Probably got infected in 1830 but was not cured. Neurosyphilis is last stage of the disease and is rarely contagious, which explains why he did not infect his wife, Clara.
Franz Schubert / Composer (symphonies, liturgies, chamber music, solo piano) 31/01/1797 (Vienna) - 19/11/1828 (Vienna) Suffered from syphilis from approximately 21 years of age. Typhoid fever (Salmonella typhi) He died shortly after Beethoven, on whose funerals he served as a torchbearers.
Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky / Composer (ballets, symphonies, operas) 07/05/1840 (Wotkinsk (Russia)) - 06/11/1893 (St. Petersburg) Emotionally unstable, insecure, homosexual. Cholera (Vibrio cholerae) He died 9 days after giving a spectacular performance of opera, now called "Pathetique", at the end of which the musical instruments play in decrescendo as if symbolizing the cessation of heartbeats and breathing.
Frederic Chopin / Composer (solo piano) 03/01/1810 (Żelazowa Wola (Russia)) - 10/17/1849 (Paris) Had relationship with George Sand (born Aurore Dudevant), with whom he had rather unfortunate trip to Mallorca, where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Cystic fibrosis and secondary infection such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, (although tuberculosis cannot be totally ruled out). The death certificate states pulmonary and laryngeal tuberculosis as the cause of death. Although, the written report on the autopsy was lost, there are many testimonies that he suffered from a heritable disease that causes not only pulmonary but also gastrointestinal inflammation. Chopin's father and sisters, all died from undiagnosed lung and digestive tract illnesses.
Alban Maria Johannes Berg / Composer (Mahlerian romanticism, adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve tone technique, operas "Wozzeck", "Lulu") 02/09/1885 (Vienna) - 12/24/1935 (Vienna) In August 1935, Berg finished his last violin concerto dedicated to Mahler daughter, Manon. The text of the chorale symbolizes farewell with the words "It is enough Lord, if it be thy will, Then let me rest in peace! ..." Sepsis - overwhelming bacterial infection, blood poisoning. Soon after the completion of the violin concerto, Berg was bitten by a gnat. The bite resulted in infection and in an abscess, which was surgically treated. However, shortly after treatment Berg fell ill again and on December 24, 1935 succumbed to blood poisoning and multiorgan failure.
Johann Sebastian Bach / Composer (organ, sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments) 03/31/1685 (Eisenach) - 07/28/1750 (Leipzig) He was married twice and fathered 20 children. In spite heavy pipe-smoking, he was healthy most of his life. His only noticeable ailment was myopia. The cause of death was a likely combination of creeping bacterial infection complicated by general body weakening from painful procedures, laxatives, mercury, bloodletting etc. and other health problems such as hypertension and diabetes. Symptoms: he had a fever and a stroke (warning: prone to misinterpretation) just before his death. Bach's eyesight started to decline rapidly in 1749 when he was composing "The Art of Fugue". In March-April 1750 Bach underwent two eye operations known as "cataract puncture" performed by its inventor, John Taylor. The procedure included puncture of the eyes with metal needles, after which blood of slaughtered dove was dropped in each eye. Near to the operated eye a wound was artificially scratched and covered with a bandage.
Nicolo Paganini / Violinist and composer 10/27/1782 (Genoa) - 05/27/1840 (Genoa) There is speculation that Paganini had hereditary illness known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or, alternatively, Marfan syndrome, both characterized by abnormally flexible extracellular matrix (ECM). The hypothesis explains Paganini's extraordinary ability to perform outmost complex pieces on the violin. In case of Paganini, there is likely a combination of health problems that led to his death: (1) syphilis; (2) mercury used for treatment of syphilis at that times had a devastating effect on his health; (3) possible tuberculosis or pneumonia; (4) prolonged abuse of mercury and powerful laxatives (Leroy's purgative and emetic). Despite of his horrendous health conditions, especially in last years of his life, Paganini managed to survive to 58 years of age. The official cause of death was "tuberculosis of the lungs and larynx". Paganini was denied a proper catholic burial because he died without a priest. There are two theories why it happened: (1) he died before the priest was summoned; (2) he sent the priest away not believing that he was dying.
Friedrich W. Nietzsche / Philosopher 10/15/1844 (Röcken (Germany)) - 08/25/1900 (Weimar (Germany)) From childhood, Nietzsche had myopia and anisocoria. He suffered from severe migraines. He had a family history of migraines and mental illness: two maternal aunts suffered psychosis and one committed a suicide. Two maternal uncles are also suspected in having mental illness. His father, who died at 35 years of age, was moody and had "states" for some years. For a long time it was thought that Nietzsche suffered from general paralysis of the insane (GPI) caused by neurosyphilis. Although some symptoms that he had at the end of his life are consistent with the diagnosis, many are not. There is a theory that he died from frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Nietzsche mental illness is estimated to become overt in 1886-1887 years when his friends detected changes in his personality. He had first documented psychotic episode in December 1888. In January 1889 he was admitted to mental asylum where he lived until March 1890. After that until his death, he was under care of his mother. His state of excitement and conviction of his own grandeur were gradually replaced by complete apathy and self-absorption.

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