16. Franz Schubert Had Syphilis
Franz Schubert, the classical composer, showed an early aptitude for music, including a prodigious talent for the piano and voice. He studied under Antonio Salieri (the same guy who was Mozart’s rival) and began composing music as a young adult. Living in Vienna, Austria during the 1800s, on at least one occasion he passed by Beethoven while walking down the street! Hearing one of his own pieces performed in public inspired Schubert to quit his day job as a teacher and pursue music full-time. He struggled financially, though, as his music was not as traditional as what patrons were accustomed to financing. He went on to contract syphilis â which was common in Vienna â as a young adult, which may have affected his career as a composer.
Schubert’s health deteriorated, likely due at least in part to syphilis, which he self-medicated with mercury (before mercury’s toxic effects became known, it was widely used in medicine). In fact, he was so secretive about his disease that he had his friends burn all of his paperwork associated with it. He died an early death at the age of 31. Ironically, his final performance brought in enough money for him to finally buy a piano. His music didn’t become well-known until after his death; should he have lived a few more years, he may have died a wealthy man.
Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:
“Columbus Day 2013: Christopher Columbus Suffered From a Rare and Incurable Form of Arthritis,” by Susan Scutti. Medical Daily. October 14, 2013.