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Was Bach Blind?

Most master musicians suffered from weird health conditions that eventually ended their life. Beethoven went deaf and Mozart died at the young age of 35. But what happened to Bach was even more horrifying.

This is widely related to the fact that doctors and physicians were simply experimenting with their patients and new procedures. Most of the time, these procedures and operations were not successful.

Johann Sebastian Bach was a renowned musician and composer with a lot of masterpieces that made him quite famous. Back then, medicine was still experimental. Doctors performed surgeries in unhealthy conditions and knew nothing about anesthesia or bacterial infection. This means that if the patient would survive the painful operation, they would eventually die because of infection.

Bach suffered from what was called a “painful eye condition”. Historians believe that he simply suffered from cataract. He went to seek treatment with a British doctor called John Taylor, a surgeon who usually claimed more than what he could deliver. He was usually boastful of his skills and his ability to cure different eye conditions which made him so popular. He usually performed his weird operations in a room full of spectators or in front of a big audience and used painful methods to cure various eye conditions.

This imposter usually arrived in an eye-catching coach that was decorated with eyeballs paintings and a motto in Latin that read “He, who gives sight, gives life”. He usually delivered a long speech before performing any surgery. But although his operations attracted a lot of people, he usually fled town before his patients fully recovered, leaving them to endure pain and disappointment. Historians believe that he blinded hundreds of people while claiming that his surgeries were successful.

Back then, cataract surgery was very painful. The doctor would usually use a big flat needle that would be used to push the cornea of the patient. This would push the opaque lens back to the lowest part of the eye, thus revealing a clear pupil. In theory, this procedure seems simple. However, the real-life experience was mostly horrific. The patients only had a cup of wine to help them endure the pain and would most probably die of trauma. But even if they survived the initial surgery they would still be subject to more terrifying complications.

This doctor was the reason why another great composer; Handel, suffered from vision problems during his final years. But Bach’s condition was far worse. His operation was extremely painful and eventually turned out to be a complete failure. Moreover, Bach developed a painful bacterial infection that eventually led to his death.

In about 4 months, Bach’s health severely declined. His infection was treated with traditional methods like bleeding and laxatives, but nothing worked. He didn’t stop work, however, and continued to dictate his final works. He underwent another surgery after the first one, but it didn’t stop his health from deteriorating. Ironically, Doctor John Taylor went blind as well during his final years.

Although Bach endured a lot of pain during the last few months of his life, his music continues to live. The world might not be aware of the pain that he had to endure, but will never forget his masterpieces.

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