Field of Science

Score for the British

"Using a small nuclear reactor at Pavia, in northern Italy, the researchers subjected hairs said to have been taken from Napoleon at different stages in his life to eight hours of irradiation. They found arsenic levels even higher than previously suggested; "a hundred times the average found in hair today," said Adalberto Piazzoli, who led the study.

But by testing other samples, including locks of hair taken from Napoleon's wife, Jos├ęphine, the team discovered that such levels were normal. "The environment in which people were immersed at the start of the 19th century evidently led to the ingestion of quantities of arsenic that we would consider dangerous today," Piazzoli said. Possible sources included "dyes, glues and the smoke from wood fires," Angela Santagostino, a toxicologist, told the daily La Stampa."
Ok, one French blow to British character retracted. But what about Napoleon's own trusted friend Marquis De Montholon who was also a prime suspect? The story of Napoleon's possible assassination by arsenic was one of the tales that got me interested in science. Sten Forshufvud, the Swedish dentist who investigated this did some classic and absolutely fascinating detective work that was described in The Murder of Napoleon. I need to go back to his book; it seems unlikely that he didn't think of running others' hair through a mass spec as a control.

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