Scientists prove Napoleon was NOT poisoned by the British

  1. By PAUL HARRIS and NICK PISA
    Last updated at 22:13pm on 12th February 2008


    The question has divided France and England for the best part of two centuries.

    Did the British bump off Napoleon Bonaparte by poisoning him with arsenic, or did the diminutive French emperor simply fade away in exile?


    The mystery of his demise has also left open the debate over whether Napoleon might have continued his quest to conquer Europe if he had managed to escape from his second exile.


    But new research could heal the cross-Channel wounds - and also explain why Old Boney always seemed to be clutching his stomach in portraits.

    Italian scientists say the 51-year-old military campaigner did not die from poisoning - a finding which adds weight to a second theory that he was killed by gastric cancer.
    Analysis of hair samples showed that he did have high levels of arsenic in his body, but these had been present since his childhood.


    The findings scotch suggestions that Napoleon was assassinated on the South Atlantic island of St Helena - where he was exiled after his humiliating defeat at Waterloo in 1815 - to rule out any possibility that he could return to power.

    They also imply that the emperor would not have been fit enough to play any major role in reshaping European history if he had managed to escape.


    Hair samples from the great dictator have been used repeatedly over the decades to try to pin down rumours of poisoning.


    Some scientists have even wondered whether all the samples were real, questioning whether one middle-aged man could possess so much hair.


    The difference with the Italian research is that it used samples from various stages of Napoleon's life, which were taken from museums in Italy and France.


    Experts from the Italian University of Pavia even went as far as using a small nuclear reactor which allowed them to irradiate the hairs.

    This meant they could then obtain an accurate measure of the arsenic levels.

    Like a scene from a James Bond movie, the hairs were placed in sealed capsules and inserted into the core of the nuclear reactor.


    Then a technique known as "neutron activation" produced the results without destroying the samples.


    Looking at hairs from several of Napoleon's contemporaries, including his wife and son, the scientists found the arsenic levels in them were generally much higher than is common today.


    In some cases they were 100 times higher.


    But they concluded there was no poisoning - because Napoleon's hair contained the same amount of arsenic as his contemporaries. Tests also showed that Napoleon was already heavily contaminated when he was a boy.
    The arsenic could have come from a variety of sources, said the scientists, including glues and dyes used at the time.


    One theory was that Napoleon was poisoned accidentally by vapour from dyes in his wallpaper at Saint Helena.


    However, the study showed there was no massive increase in arsenic levels in his later years.

    "It is clear that one cannot talk about a case of poisoning, but of a constant absorption of arsenic," the researchers said.


    "The environment in which people lived in the early 1800s evidently caused the intake of quantities of arsenic that today we would consider dangerous."


    The latest findings add weight to other studies which suggest that Napoleon was killed by a long-standing stomach cancer.

    It was probably caused by infection and poor diet while he was on his relentless campaigns through Europe.


    One study concluded that he was the victim of a massive gastric haemorrhage when the tumour reached an advanced stage.


    However, detractors insist that Napoleon showed none of the emaciation that normally afflicts cancer sufferers.


    By contrast, the 5ft 6in emperor seemed to be growing progressively fatter in exile - a condition that has been observed in victims of long-term arsenic poisoning.
    Napoleon died on May 5, 1821, six years after his defeat by the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo.
    The Italian scientists were adamant in their conclusion: "It was not arsenic poisoning that killed Napoleon at Saint Helena."

    (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/worldnews.html?in_article_id=513909&in_page_id=1811)
     
  2. As Spock would say, "Fascinating!"

    You always find the coolest stuff to post Caitlin! Thank you!!!
     
  3. Aww! I try! :shame:
     
  4. Alright but why is no-one asking the question... why in the world do they have hair samples from him since he was a child? lol! that's what I wanna know.
     
  5. ^good point. interesting article.
     
  6. wow! i wouldnt have known that! thanks for the article:tup::tup:
     
  7. so my history teacher lied? :shocked: LOL

    thanks, very interesting!!
     
  8. Apparantly, collecting samples of family members' hair was a hobby in the olden days. Otherwise there wouldn't be an exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum dedicted to locks of hair from past presidents.
     
  9. ^ How bizarre! I had NO idea!
     
  10. Parents save locks of hair from their children's first haircuts. (My mom saved hair from my brother and myself).


    I guess that 19th century hobby extends farther than baby's first haircut.