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On the authenticity of Beethoven’s skull fragments from the estate of Prof. Dr. Romeo Seligmann

Authentizität von Beethovens Schädelfragmenten aus dem Nachlass von Prof. Dr. Romeo Seligmann


On the occasion of the reburial of Beethoven’s mortal remains in 1863, skull fragments are said to have come into the possession of Prof. Dr. Seligmann, who was present at that time and had conducted scientific investigations. These fragments were inherited in his family and are currently housed in the USA. Their authenticity is doubted by some scientists. On the basis of a plaster cast of Beethoven’s skull kept in the Natural History Museum, Fool’s Tower, in Vienna, the exact topographical position of these skull fragments could be reconstructed and it could be shown that there is no indication that the fragments did not originate from Beethoven’s skull.


Anlässlich der Umbettung von Beethovens sterblichen Überresten im Jahr 1863 sollen Schädelfragmente in den Besitz von Prof. Dr. Seligmann gelangt sein, der damals anwesend war und wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen durchgeführt hatte. Diese Fragmente wurden in seiner Familie vererbt und befinden sich heute in den USA. Ihre Echtheit wird von einigen Wissenschaftlern angezweifelt. Anhand eines Gipsabdrucks von Beethovens Schädel, der im Naturhistorischen Museum, Narrenturm, in Wien aufbewahrt wird, konnte die genaue topographische Herkunft dieser Schädelfragmente rekonstruiert werden, und es konnte gezeigt werden, dass es keinen Hinweis darauf gibt, dass die Fragmente nicht von Beethovens Schädel stammen.

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I sincerely thank Paul Kaufmann, Carmichael, Ca 95608, for providing and allowing the publication of his photographs of the bone fragments.

Furthermore, I would like to thank Mr. Eduard Winter, Fool’s Tower, Natural History Museum, Vienna, for lending me this probably unique existing replica of Beethoven’s apparently lost skull cast and for giving me the opportunity to examine it.

I am grateful to Günther Faimann for information on the archive holdings of the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna.

Ken M. Kemner of the Argonne National Laboratory is thanked for willingly sharing the results from his 2005 studies.

The copyrights for the use of the photos of the Beethoven-Haus Bonn, were transferred by contract.

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Correspondence to Christian Reiter MD.

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C. Reiter declares that he is not aware of any competing financial interests or personal relationships that may have influenced the work in this article.

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Reiter, C. On the authenticity of Beethoven’s skull fragments from the estate of Prof. Dr. Romeo Seligmann. Wien Med Wochenschr (2022).

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