Why did Bach go blind?
Among medical mysteries involving master musicians, it doesn’t quite match the still-mysterious death of Mozart at age 35. But precisely why Johann Sebastian Bach went totally blind less than four months before his death in 1750 remains an open question—as well as the portal to a poignant story.
More than two-and-a-half centuries after the fact, a prominent Finnish ophthalmologist is offering what he calls a “plausible diagnosis” of the great composer: intractable secondary glaucoma, brought on by a botched eye operation.
In a paper published in the journal Acta Ophthalmologica, Ahti Tarkkanen outlines the medical and historical information that led him to this conclusion. He also notes that Bach’s life might literally have been brighter—and perhaps even longer—if he had lived, or even traveled, about 500 miles to the west.