Did Mozart die of a lack of sunlight?

The link between sunlight, vitamin D and good health was unknown at the time of Mozart who is thought to have composed at night, and slept by day. Illustration: Royal Society/PA

Doctors over the years have resurrected the story of Mozart’s death again and again, each time proposing some alternative horrifying medical reason why the 18th century’s most celebrated and prolific composer keeled over at age 35. A new monograph suggests that Mozart died from too little sunlight.

The researchers give us a simple theory. When exposed to sunlight, people’s skin naturally produces vitamin D. Mozart, toward the end of his life, was nearly as nocturnal as a vampire, so his skin probably produced very little vitamin D. (The man failed to take any vitamin D supplements to counteract that deficiency. But that wasn’t Mozart’s fault. Only much later, in the 1920s, did scientists identify a clear link between vitamin D, sunlight, and good health. Vitamin D supplements did not go on sale in Salzburg and Vienna, Mozart’s home towns, until many years after that.)

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