Bach’s anatomy helped him achieve greatness, says new study
26 July 2019, 16:53
A German anatomist analysed a photograph of Bach’s skeleton – and it turns out it wasn’t just the composer’s musical output that was huge.
J.S. Bach had exceptionally large hands, according to a study published in a German scientific journal.
In the study, anatomist and musician Andreas Otte analysed a photograph of what is believed to be Bach’s skeleton, and deduced that Bach had an exceptional reach at the keyboard.
By examining the skeleton of Bach’s left hand, Otte – a professor of medical technology at the University of Applied Sciences Offenburg – found Bach’s hand measured nearly 8 1/2 inches from wrist to fingertips.
Meanwhile, his span was 10 1/4 inches from thumb to last finger, with the hand open wide. Click on the tweet below to see the full image:
Creepier still: Bach's Skeleton pic.twitter.com/xr0JSZOlLO— Anthony Princiotti (@tonyprinciotti) December 12, 2018
And for context, here’s an average-sized human hand, measuring just 7 inches from wrist to fingertips:
Using these measurements, Otte calculated that Bach could play a 12th (that’s 12 white keys on a piano).
“We cannot judge exactly how relevant the span of the hand is for the art of a musician,” Otte says. And he insists that his research does not, and should not, imply that any of Bach’s musical genius is down to his reach: “That would be a sacrilege.”
Let’s also bear in mind that Bach lived from 1685-1750 – and people were a lot smaller back then. Bach, who was 5’11” (1.8m), towered over men of his day, whose average height would have been around 5’5” (165cm).