Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    Monday, May 11, 2009

    Was Napoleon poisoned?

    Some conspiracy theorists believe Napoleon Bonaparte was poisoned with arsenic 188 years ago.

    After his defeat at the battle of Waterloo in 1815, Napoleon was exiled to St. Helena, an island in the South Atlantic Ocean. He died in 1821 at age 52. During most of his exile, Napoleon lived with a retinue of about twenty people who included some who had a motive for wanting to murder him. Even Napoleon was paranoid about his illness during the last months of his life. He specifically requested that an autopsy be performed on him in the event of his death with “particular focus” on what was in his stomach at the time of death. The autopsy report listed gastric cancer as the cause of death. But the rumors continued.

    A number of Napoleon's staff had kept locks of the Emperor's hair, which were passed down the generations, sometimes coming up for auction. In the 1960s a Glasgow University forensic scientist Professor Hamilton Smith, who had developed the nuclear techniques to record very small levels of arsenic showed that small quantities of arsenic were present in Napoleon's hair. Thus the rumors continued that Napoleon had been murdered.

    I just came across an article written by my good friend Dr. Genta, a Texas pathologist-gasteoenterologist. He and fellow researchers analyzed Napolean’s original autopsy reports, Napoleon's medical history, memoirs from his doctors and other documents.

    Dr. Genta and Swiss and Canadian researchers decided to see for themselves, having been intrigued by the idea that Napoleon could have changed the history of our world by escaping exile. For their study, they relied on current medical knowledge and historical data.

    The autopsy reports showed that Napoleon lost a lot of weight in his last months, a sign of severe illness. His stomach was filled with a dark material resembling coffee grounds, which indicated that gastrointestinal bleeding could have been the immediate cause of death.

    Researchers compared the data with images of 50 benign ulcers and 50 gastric cancers. They concluded that Napoleon had a stage III gastric cancer, which today has less than a 50% survival rate of one year and less than 20% survival for five years.

    "He was sentenced to death [by the cancer]," Dr. Genta said who also speculated that Napoleon likely had a history of chronic Helicobacter pylori gastritis, which probably increased his risk of gastric cancer.

    Will Genta’s study finally let Napoleon rest in peace?
    Doubtful. "The conspiracy theories will continue," says Dr. Genta.

    If Napoleon had escaped and returned to power, his illness would have made for only a brief reign. "There was no need to poison him," Dr. Genta said. "He would have died in a short time."

    So where did the arsenic in Napoleon’s hair come from? would’ve asked Dr. Watson

    What was the name of the house lived in by Napoleon on St. Helena? replied the great detective.

    It was Longwoood House. What has that got to do with it? responded the puzzled Watson.

    Elementary my dear Watson, would’ve said Sherlock Holmes.

    If you look at the decorating log of that house like I did you would see that the wallpaper of Napoleon’s bedroom was green. And in the weeks prior to Napoleon’s death the weather was hot and humid according an almanac of that day.

    Scheele's Green was a coloring pigment that had been used in fabrics and wallpapers from about 1770. It was named after the Swedish chemist who invented it. The pigment was easy to make and was a bright green color but under certain circumstances the copper arsenite could be deadly. Napoleon’s wallpaper contained Scheele's Green which when it became damp and moldy in hot and humid weather, the mold could carry out a chemical process to convert the copper arsenite into a gas which would have been present in the hair of people who lived in the room.

    Jones, DEH, Ledingham, KWL "Arsenic in Napoleon's Wallpaper" Nature, Vol. 299 Oct. 14, 1982 p. 626-7.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment