Locks of Beethoven’s Hair

In 1995 the Beethoven Center acquired the so-called Hiller lock of Beethoven’s hair, which was the subject of Russell Martin’s bestselling book Beethoven’s Hair (2000). Tests on this lock of hair showed unusually high lead content, which led to a theory that Beethoven may have suffered from lead poisoning. However, a 2023 study published in Current Biology, which analyzed DNA from several surviving locks of Beethoven’s hair, determined that the Hiller lock was inauthentic.

The Center owns the Schindler/Moscheles lock of Beethoven’s hair, which was cut from Beethoven’s head by Anton Felix Schindler on March 24, 1827 and given to Ignaz Moscheles after Beethoven's death. This lock was one of five authentic locks of hair used to decode Beethoven’s DNA. Results of the DNA analysis revealed that Beethoven had a hepatitis B infection and had a genetic predisposition for liver cirrhosis, which—combined with his heavy drinking—may have contributed to his death from liver disease.

In 2012 the Center acquired a collection of materials from the descendants of the composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel, which includes a framed object with thirteen locks of hair attributed to Beethoven, Goethe, the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia, Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, Duchess Amalia of Saxony-Weimar, and eight members of the Hummel family, along with two quill pens attributed to Beethoven and Johann Gottfried Herder.