Revolutionary Robespierre Gets a Modern Diagnosis

Doctors think he suffered from auto-immune disorder sarcoidosis

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 20, 2013 11:44 AM CST

(Newser) – The guillotine ended the life of French revolutionary Maximilien de Robespierre in 1794, but the 36-year-old might not have been long for this earth anyhow, a new study suggests. Doctors think he suffered from an auto-immune disorder called sarcoidosis in which the body attacks its own tissues and organs, reports Reuters. His skin was pock-marked and jaundiced, he suffered nosebleeds and leg ulcers, and he seems to have been a generally unhealthy, twitchy guy, notes the Guardian.

"The retrospective diagnosis that includes all these symptoms is diffuse sarcoidosis … extending to the upper respiratory tract, the eyes, and either the liver or pancreas," write doctors in the medical journal Lancet. The doctors, for the record, took no stand on the larger question of Robespierre—was he, as the AFP sums up, an "incorruptible" defender of the downtrodden or a "monster who slaughtered thousands" and paved the way for Hitler and Stalin? Historians will have to sort that one out.

This 3D reconstruction released by VisualForensic shows Robespierre's face, according to two French scientists.
This 3D reconstruction released by VisualForensic shows Robespierre's face, according to two French scientists.   (AP Photo/VisualForensic, Philippe Froesch, Batabat)
This 3D reconstruction released by VisualForensic shows Robespierre's face according to two French scientists. Sans wig, of course.
This 3D reconstruction released by VisualForensic shows Robespierre's face according to two French scientists. Sans wig, of course.   (AP Photo/VisualForensic, Philippe Froesch, Batabat)
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