A contemporary of Mozart and Haydn, he started losing his hearing at age 28 and eventually became totally deaf. Incredibly, though, he continued writing some of the most beautiful symphonies, concertos, sonatas and quartets of all time. Today, he ranks as one of the greatest composers in history. His name was Ludwig van Beethoven, and he was born this day, Dec. 17, 1770. Beethoven wrote: "No friend have I. I must live by myself alone; but I know well that God is nearer to me than others in my art, so I will walk fearlessly with Him."