Benjamin Franklin's Armonica
one of Franklin's inventions was a musical instrument so popular that Beethoven and Mozart composed for it. Unfortunately it lead poisoned those who played it.
letter to a colleague about lead poisoning from the fumes of heated lead type and other incidents.
the legendary Wild West sharpshooter died of pernicious anemia, believed to be a consequence of lead poisoning from her long career handling firearms.
George Frideric Handel
(From: New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 321, no. 11 (14 September 1989), pp. 765-9)
"It is also possible that he suffered from saturnine gout, the gout induced by lead poisoning. The 1703 Treaty of Methuen opened England to the importation of fortified wines from Portugal. These ports and madeiras, in contrast to their modern equivalents, had a high lead content, presumably from piping reinforced with lead that was used in distilling the brandy with which they were fortified. That Handel drank port can be seen from this penciled note in one of his manuscripts: "12 gallons port, 12 bottles French Duke Street, Meels" (perhaps the name of the wine merchant)." See also:
A lock of Beethoven's hair
handed down as an heirloom shows that his well-known ills were probably due to lead poisoning.
Julius Caesar's engineer
Vitruvius, who also served his successor Caesar Augustus, reported, "Water is much more wholesome from earthenware pipes than from lead pipes. For it seems to be made injurious by lead, because white lead is produced from it; and this is said to be harmful to the human body. .... Therefore it seems that water should not be brought in lead pipes if we desire to have it wholesome." (Chapter 6, paragraphs 10 and 11, of Book VIII by Vitruvius Latin version)
The Fall of Rome?
The debate is still open, but some say the use of lead vessels to prepare a food preservative doomed the Roman aristocracy. (see also an EPA history of lead)
From a College Bowl:
Question: A portrait and pastoral painter for most of his life, he was
considered skilled but unremarkable until he contracted lead poisoning in
his late forties and painted a series of disturbing paintings called "the
Caprices." These paintings led to an investigation by the Church and charges
of heresy, from which he was saved by his patron Charles IV. Name this
Spanish painter of unforgettable images of execution, dismemberment,
torture, and cannibalism and the "Disasters of War" series for ten points.
Answer: Francisco Goya
No lead in pencils?
the black stuff in pencils is graphite.
The Secret Life of Lead
A National Public Radio series about childhood lead poisoning in Cincinnati available for listening.
The story of a lost Arctic expedition in 1845 where Sir John Franklin and a crew of 128 men died from lead poisoning.
A Strange Ignorance (pdf)
The ASBA report on the role of lead poisoning in failing schools.