Napolean Didn't Meet Aresenic-Laced End

Italian researchers deflate claim of arsenic death
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2008 8:00 AM CDT
Mark Schneider acting as French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte greets spectators during re-enactment of the Battle of Three Emperors at Tvarozna near Slavkov, formerly Austerlitz, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2007.   (AP Photo/CTK,Igor Sefr)
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(Newser) – For decades scholars have debated whether Napoleon, who died in exile on the island of St. Helena in 1821, was poisoned with arsenic by his British captors; as recently as 2002 a biographer wrote that there was "nothing improbable about the hypothesis." But now a team of Italian scientists has conducted a detailed analysis of the French emperor's hair that seems to disprove the theory.

As the New York Times reports, the scientists used a nuclear reactor to examine hair taken from Napoleon's head at four times in his life: as a boy, during his first exile on Elba, on the day he died, and the day after. The analysis showed that levels of arsenic remained high but stable, deflating the poisoning theory. Rather, the scientists concluded that Napoleon had "a chronic exposure" to the toxic element not uncommon at the time.