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Napoleon's Mysterious Death Unmasked
Science Daily ^ | 1-16-2007 | UT Southwestern Medical Center

Posted on 01/16/2007 4:07:54 PM PST by blam

UT Southwestern Medical Center
Date: January 16, 2007

Napoleon's Mysterious Death Unmasked

Science Daily — A new investigation into Napoleon Bonaparte's cause of death might finally put to rest nearly 200 years of lingering mysteries about the illness that killed the French emperor during his island exile, a UT Southwestern Medical Center scientist reports.

Dr. Robert Genta, professor of pathology and internal medicine, helped investigate the cause of Napoleon Bonaparte's death nearly 200 years ago by applying modern pathological and tumor-staging methods to historical accounts. (Image courtesy of UT Southwestern Medical Center)

American, Swiss and Canadian researchers applied modern pathological and tumor-staging methods to historical accounts and found that Napoleon died of a very advanced case of gastric cancer that stemmed from an ulcer-causing bacterial infection in his stomach, rather than a heretofore belief of a hereditary disposition to the cancer. The analysis, which also refutes rumors of arsenic poisoning, points to gastrointestinal bleeding as the likely immediate cause of death.

The report, available online and in the January edition of Nature Clinical Practice Gastroenterology & Hepatology, indicates that the despot's demise was imminent.

"This analysis suggests that, even if the emperor had been released or escaped from the island, his terminal condition would have prevented him from playing a further major role in the theater of European history," said Dr. Robert Genta, professor of pathology and internal medicine at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study. "Even today, with the availability of sophisticated surgical techniques and chemotherapies, patients with gastric cancer as advanced as Napoleon's have a poor prognosis."

Napoleon, born Aug. 15, 1769, ruled France in the late 1700s and early 1800s. He conquered much of Europe, but he was ultimately defeated at the battle of Waterloo in 1815. The British then exiled him to St. Helena, an island in the South Atlantic Ocean.

He died May 5, 1821.

The cause of his death has been highly scrutinized over the years. Dr. Genta and his colleagues, whose research focuses on gastritis and gastric cancer, investigated the case because of their interest in the way disease affects the behavior of historical figures and, in turn, the course of history. In Napoleon's case, they were intrigued by a popular notion that Napoleon could have altered the balance of European power had he escaped his exile.

An autopsy at the time cited stomach cancer as the cause of death. A study done in 1938 indicated that Napoleon's father died of stomach cancer. In 1961, an elevated level of arsenic was found in hair taken from Napoleon, inspiring rumors of arsenic poisoning.

To find answers, Dr. Genta and the other researchers combined current medical knowledge and autopsy reports, memoirs of the physicians who treated Napoleon on the island, eyewitness accounts and medical histories of family members.

Autopsy and physician descriptions revealed no telltale signs of arsenic poisoning, such as hemorrhaging in the lining inside the heart, and no skin, lung or bladder cancers were present.

Gastric cancer was more likely at fault, Dr. Genta said. Other scholars have recently found that the plump emperor lost at least 20 pounds in the last six months of his life, a sign of gastric cancer. The autopsy descriptions show that Napoleon's stomach was filled with a dark material that resembled coffee grounds, an indication of gastrointestinal bleeding that likely was the immediate cause of death, Dr. Genta said. The most important description was of a large, ulcerated lesion on his stomach, and a smaller ulcerated lesion in another part of his stomach that had penetrated the wall and reached the liver.

The researchers -- obviously unable to observe the body -- compared the original descriptions of the lesions with modern images of 50 benign ulcers and 50 gastric cancers. They determined that no benign cancer could look like the lesion described in the autopsy.

"It was a huge mass from the entrance of his stomach to the exit. It was at least 10 centimeters long. Size alone suggests the lesion was cancer," Dr. Genta said.

They then used a state-of-the-art tumor-staging method from 21st century pathology and determined that Napoleon had at least T3N1M0, or Stage IIIA, gastric cancer, which is very severe. The method grades severity on a 1 to 4 scale, with 4 being the worst case. The "T" designates cancer size; the "N" designates the presence of lymph nodes, which are associated with tumors; and the "M" designates metastasis of the cancer to other organs. The autopsy and other accounts indicate that the cancer was large, lymph nodes were present around the stomach and there were no tumors in other organs. Only 20 percent of patients with Stage IIIA gastric cancer survive five years if treated with modern surgery and chemotherapy.

But what might have caused Napoleon's cancer?

Risk factors for gastric cancer include male gender, genetic susceptibility, chronic gastritis and infection by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori.

Although genetic susceptibility is a possible cause, it's not likely, Dr. Genta said. That's because the autopsy of Napoleon's father described a tumor that might have been something other than gastric cancer. And because autopsies were not performed on other Bonaparte family members, their causes of death can only be speculated upon based on symptoms or medical reports.

Instead, the ulcerated lesion on the emperor's stomach suggests a history of chronic H. pylori gastritis, which might have increased his risk of gastric cancer, Dr. Genta said. The risk might have been further increased by his diet full of salt-preserved foods but sparse in fruits and vegetables -- common fare for long military campaigns.

"Even if treated today, he'd have been dead within a year," he said.

Dr. Genta completed some of the work for this report while at the University of Geneva. Researchers from the Aarau Cantonal Hospital and the Institute of Pathology at the University Hospital of Basel, both in Switzerland, and McGill University in Montreal also contributed.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by UT Southwestern Medical Center.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: autopsy; bonoaparte; death; french; godsgravesglyphs; napoleon; pathology; toxicology
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1 posted on 01/16/2007 4:07:56 PM PST by blam
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To: SunkenCiv

GGG Ping.


2 posted on 01/16/2007 4:08:34 PM PST by blam
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To: blam

But he is still dead..right? 200 years ago, right? mmmmm did Bush have anything to do with this? Where was Rove?

Meadow Muffin


3 posted on 01/16/2007 4:10:31 PM PST by rwgal
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To: blam

I have laid awake for my whole life worrying about this. Now I can sleep.


4 posted on 01/16/2007 4:12:04 PM PST by dforest (Liberals love crisis, create crisis and then dwell on them.)
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To: blam

Interesting. Thanks.


5 posted on 01/16/2007 4:13:00 PM PST by mtbopfuyn (I think the border is kind of an artificial barrier - San Antonio councilwoman Patti Radle)
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To: rwgal
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
6 posted on 01/16/2007 4:13:07 PM PST by JRios1968 (Tagline wanted...inquire within)
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To: JRios1968

LOL


7 posted on 01/16/2007 4:16:10 PM PST by My2Cents
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To: JRios1968

Thankf you, I rest my case, lets move along....

Meadow Muffin


8 posted on 01/16/2007 4:16:36 PM PST by rwgal
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To: blam

Sure, by 1821, Napoleon was hors combat, but suppose he'd escaped in, say, 1818, with 3 years to live. His son lived, an Austrian Prince.

It is conceivable that the French, disatisfied by the return of the Bourbons, may have flocked to the ill Bonaparte again. And by 1818, Europe's armies that had fought at Waterloo or were moving towards the French frontiers had been decommissioned. Sure, they could have been raised again, but it would have taken time.

And an astute Bonaparte, conscious of the dual role of his son as a French prince AND a Habsburg prince, may have very well been able to solidify a deal to the liking of the Habsburg's whereby Napoleon II would assume the throne of a France joined by close royal marriage and lineage to Austria.

The same may have been true even as late as 1820. Indeed, the farther the war receded, the more likely that an ill Napoleon could have struck a deal with the Hapsburgs, especially if he didn't do anything crazy like launch the armies at the frontiers again.


9 posted on 01/16/2007 4:16:47 PM PST by Vicomte13 (Aure entuluva.)
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To: blam

I always heard he died of a broken heart. Damn those evil medical scientists.


10 posted on 01/16/2007 4:18:12 PM PST by sully777 (You have flies in your eyes--Catch-22)
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To: blam
Is it bad lighting, or my eyesight, or some but does this guy have on a pink tie and a (pale)pink shirt?
11 posted on 01/16/2007 4:24:09 PM PST by yankeedame ("Oh, I can take it but I'd much rather dish it out.")
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To: blam
The risk might have been further increased by his diet full of salt-preserved foods but sparse in fruits and vegetables

I gather my "Dog Gone Potato Chip Diet" book just took a hit.

12 posted on 01/16/2007 4:26:28 PM PST by Dog Gone
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To: yankeedame

looks to me like a white shirt and a big red X on it.


13 posted on 01/16/2007 4:27:47 PM PST by Michael.SF. (It's time our lawmakers paid more attention to their responsibilities, and less to their privileges.)
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To: blam
There are as many causes of Napoleon's death as I have fingers on both hands. Just wait a year and somebody will come up and blame his death on something else.
14 posted on 01/16/2007 4:28:39 PM PST by Uncle Hal
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To: blam

B.S. He's alive and living in Argentina under an assumed German name.


15 posted on 01/16/2007 4:35:08 PM PST by Don Corleone (Leave the gun..take the cannoli)
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To: yankeedame

I heard on "The Apprentice" Sunday night, that pink is the new black. (Goes with everything). Of course the guy that said it was a guy man who thought that a pink, paisley, tight, tiny, spandex bikini swimming suit was a "sure sell" for a man to wear.


16 posted on 01/16/2007 4:35:25 PM PST by codercpc
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To: codercpc
guy man = gay man
17 posted on 01/16/2007 4:36:23 PM PST by codercpc
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To: yankeedame

I do believe you are right. :)


18 posted on 01/16/2007 4:36:45 PM PST by Conservative4Ever
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To: yankeedame
...but does this guy have on a pink tie and a (pale)pink shirt?

That's the fashion-sense of a real scientist.

E.g., the truly brilliant biochemist professor I knew...his
biggest struggle before a meeting with graduate-school administators
was figuring out which pair of sandals he should wear.
19 posted on 01/16/2007 4:37:03 PM PST by VOA
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To: blam

"Napoleon died of a very advanced case of gastric cancer"

Which would explain his hand in his vest?


20 posted on 01/16/2007 4:38:59 PM PST by toddlintown (Six bullets and Lennon goes down. Yet not one hit Yoko. Discuss.)
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To: codercpc
dang those pesky fashion designers...pink is for GIRLS
21 posted on 01/16/2007 4:39:10 PM PST by Conservative4Ever
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To: indylindy
I have laid awake for my whole life worrying about this. Now I can sleep.

And a few minutes later, your alarm clock will go off. Trust me on this.

22 posted on 01/16/2007 4:39:34 PM PST by savedbygrace (SECURE THE BORDERS FIRST (I'M YELLING ON PURPOSE))
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To: savedbygrace

Damn, you have no idea how many years I have been without sleep!


23 posted on 01/16/2007 4:41:49 PM PST by dforest (Liberals love crisis, create crisis and then dwell on them.)
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To: blam

I thought it was already "proved" he was slowly poisoned through his wine by examining his hair samples.


24 posted on 01/16/2007 4:42:15 PM PST by Hacksaw (Appalachian by the grace of God!)
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To: blam

The guy is dead...a long time ago...let it go already!


25 posted on 01/16/2007 4:43:38 PM PST by devane617 (It's McCain and a Rat -- Now what?)
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To: blam
...autopsy descriptions show that Napoleon's stomach was filled with a dark material that resembled coffee grounds...

So that explains why he always had his hand on his stomach in all those paintings.

26 posted on 01/16/2007 4:46:31 PM PST by fat city (What part of cognitive dissonance don't you understand?)
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To: toddlintown
"Napoleon died of a very advanced case of gastric cancer"

Which would explain his hand in his vest?

---
Gastric or stomach cancer is symptomless until an advanced state. By the time you have symptoms you generally have a year or less to live.

Paintings of him with his hand in his vest 1814 and before, death in 1821. No, doesn't fit the disease.
27 posted on 01/16/2007 4:47:17 PM PST by Cheburashka ( World's only Spatula City certified spatula repair and maintenance specialist!!!)
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To: zot

medical ping


28 posted on 01/16/2007 4:47:39 PM PST by GreyFriar ( 3rd Armored Division - Spearhead)
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To: Cheburashka

Sorry Doctor. It was a joke.


29 posted on 01/16/2007 4:48:20 PM PST by toddlintown (Six bullets and Lennon goes down. Yet not one hit Yoko. Discuss.)
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To: fat city
So that explains why he always had his hand on his stomach in all those paintings.

He's holding his pants up. He always was misplacing his suspenders.

30 posted on 01/16/2007 4:48:55 PM PST by Hacksaw (Appalachian by the grace of God!)
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To: blam

from BBC:
"According to two French forensic specialists in Strasbourg, tests on five strands of Napoleon's hair preserved since his death confirm "major exposure to arsenic"."


31 posted on 01/16/2007 4:50:27 PM PST by Hacksaw (Appalachian by the grace of God!)
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To: blam
Napolean's Death Mask

They wanted to make sure he stayed dead!

You were wonderin' when somebody was gonna post that, didn't ya!

32 posted on 01/16/2007 4:52:39 PM PST by uglybiker (A bunch of radical Unitarians left a flaming question mark on my lawn!)
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To: blam

I may croak if I discover "Grant Money" was the reason this "Study" was initiated.

I swear... Government will be the Death of me

TT


33 posted on 01/16/2007 4:53:48 PM PST by TexasTransplant (NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSET)
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To: Uncle Hal
There are as many causes of Napoleon's death as I have fingers on both hands. Just wait a year and somebody will come up and blame his death on something else.

He was shot from the grassy knoll.

34 posted on 01/16/2007 4:56:17 PM PST by LexBaird (98% satisfaction guaranteed. There's just no pleasing some people.)
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To: blam

***"Even today, with the availability of sophisticated surgical techniques and chemotherapies, patients with gastric cancer as advanced as Napoleon's have a poor prognosis." ****

Tell that to Fidel Castro.


35 posted on 01/16/2007 4:58:29 PM PST by sgtbono2002 (Peace through strength.)
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To: Hacksaw; blam
Nope, that was the tin foil hat crowd who were hoping to prove that Wellington and the British governor had him assassinated. The French started yapping about it almost as soon as he was dead. Make the Brits look bad, y'know.

Everybody knew the man had an ulcer (and yes, that's why he kept his hand in his vest), it got worse and worse, and when he began losing weight rapidly and having constant pain and anemia, everybody knew it had "turned."

Here's the original article: Napoleon Bonaparte's gastric cancer: a clinicopathologic approach to staging, pathogenesis, and etiology

It's a good read, actually, if you're interested in histori/medical detective stories.

The absence of hemorrhages in the heart absolutely rules out arsenic poisoning, according to the article. Trace amounts of arsenic in the hair mean nothing, because of the ferocious patent medicines in general use at the time.

36 posted on 01/16/2007 4:59:38 PM PST by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: Cheburashka

But since he had pre-existing gastric ulcers, much more likely.


37 posted on 01/16/2007 5:02:04 PM PST by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: blam

Maybe Montholon, his alleged assassin will be cleared now but he remains a sinister cypher in my book.


38 posted on 01/16/2007 5:03:24 PM PST by Eternal_Bear
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To: blam

He was born November 13, 1769. Throws the entire article into doubt for me.


39 posted on 01/16/2007 5:31:46 PM PST by Buckeye Battle Cry (Life is too short to go through it clenched of sphincter and void of humor - it's okay to laugh.)
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To: blam
Thanks Blam. I just had a Kay Starr flashback.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list. Thanks.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
"Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list or GGG weekly digest
-- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

40 posted on 01/16/2007 6:11:44 PM PST by SunkenCiv ("In theory, theory and practice are the same, but in practice, they're not." -- John Rummel)
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To: Buckeye Battle Cry

:'D

http://users.idworld.net/rrichard/napoleo1.htm

"Napoleon later adopts August 15 as his birthday, to coincide with the Catholic Feast of the Assumption."


41 posted on 01/16/2007 6:15:04 PM PST by SunkenCiv ("In theory, theory and practice are the same, but in practice, they're not." -- John Rummel)
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To: TexasTransplant

UT Southwestern Medical Center is great on Nobel Prizes and spending beaucoup bucks on etherial studies. Your government at work.


42 posted on 01/16/2007 6:35:27 PM PST by ArtyFO (I love to smoke cigars when I adjust artillery fire at the moonbat loonery.)
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To: TR Jeffersonian

ping


43 posted on 01/16/2007 6:55:33 PM PST by kalee (No burka for me....EVER!)
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To: GreyFriar

Thanks for the ping. I didn't know that an autopsy was done. Modern analysis of the autopsy report makes this a very substantial diagnosis.


44 posted on 01/16/2007 7:58:56 PM PST by zot (GWB -- the most slandered man of this decade)
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To: zot

I think this report is pretty cool.


45 posted on 01/16/2007 8:11:28 PM PST by miliantnutcase ("If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidize it." -ichabod1)
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To: indylindy

The alarm clock doesn't care.

;-)


46 posted on 01/16/2007 8:27:37 PM PST by savedbygrace (SECURE THE BORDERS FIRST (I'M YELLING ON PURPOSE))
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To: ArtyFO

Politicians need to know!

(Besides it doesn't cost them anything, since they do not produce anything, earn anything or deserve anything)

TT


47 posted on 01/16/2007 8:28:47 PM PST by TexasTransplant (NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSET)
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To: AnAmericanMother

Have you read about that urologist who bought Napoleon's penis, and displayed it in his office? I always thought that was a weird thing to remove at autopsy.


48 posted on 01/16/2007 11:21:03 PM PST by boop (Now Greg, you know I don't like that WORD!)
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To: Uncle Hal

Personally, I think he died of ovarian cancer. :P


49 posted on 01/16/2007 11:27:54 PM PST by derllak
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To: boop
Never heard of that! But Cecil Adams over at the Straight Dope says it's so . . . and what's more, the moke paid three grand for it.

I can think of a lot better ways to spend 3 large, can't you?

50 posted on 01/17/2007 4:02:13 AM PST by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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