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The Truth About Napoleon’s Death


According to DNA testing, Napoleon didn’t die from arsenic poisoning. The findings are said to be definitive after tests on samples of Napoleon’s DNA showed the French emperor didn’t die from arsenic. The debate over Napoleon’s death has been going on for nearly 200 years, but researchers at Italy’s National Institute of Nuclear Physics examined the historic man’s hair to discover whether the fact he was poisoned by guards during his exile in the South Atlantic was true or not.

DNA Testing Rules Out Arsenic

After the Battle of Waterloo, it was widely believed Napoleon was poisoned by guards as in 1961 high levels of arsenic were found in the French emperor’s hair. Although the autopsy showed no signs of poisoning, it isn’t until now after DNA testing that the evidence is now conclusive – Napoleon didn’t die from arsenic poisoning.

DNA Samples From Youth To Death

The was possible as the Italian scientists obtained samples held in French and Italian museums of Napoleon’s DNA, including samples from his childhood, during his exile, on the day of his death and the day after his death. In total samples dating from 1812 to 1826 alongside samples from Empress Josephine were analysed. DNA testing on the hairs was a delicate business, and the scientists used neutron activation – a test that doesn’t destroy the samples and offers precise results. This type of test uses radiation within the reactor, making the hair elements radioactive allowing its composition to be deduced.

Hair Samples For DNA Testing

A report in the Telegraph newspaper stated that hairs from the modern day also underwent testing. The results showed that all of the hairs had traces of arsenic, and that although Napoleon’s hair contained up to 100 times more arsenic than that in the hairs from today, it’s said that those levels were common in people from his era. Also, the hair sample from Napoleon’s childhood that underwent DNA testing significantly had the same levels of arsenic as the hair sample from his death.

Samples used for Tests

Hairs are just one of the many samples that can be used in DNA analysis. Other samples include blood, sperm, and a range of human tissue samples Here is a list of samples often used in forensic DNA tests, criminal investigations, relationship and parental tests. Each samples of however, very different in terms of how likely it is that a complete DNA profile will be extracted. Besides one must take into consideration other factors, including how old the sample is.

Died From Stomach Cancer

DNA based testing opens up the debate around the cause of Napoleon’s death once more. One of the most likely causes is the suggestion he died from stomach cancer as a result of a poor diet. Many sailors depended on salt-preserved foods, with little fruit or vegetables during long campaigns at sea. He died aged 51.

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