New results obtained from arsenic speciation analysis of hair samples derived from Napoleon Bonaparte are supporting the arsenic poisoning theory.
While it has
been demonstrated already during the early 60`s by various analytical
procedures (such as NAA) that high concentrations of arsenic were
present in Napoleon`s hair, some authors challenged these results by
indicating that the detected levels might be a result of external
contamination. Different sources for external contamination were
speculated including wallpaper, coal smoke, arsenic-containing
cosmetics, or by arsenic used to preserve hair samples. Due to the
geographical location of Saint Helena
in the middle of the sea, it also
has been speculated that arsenic in Napoleon's hair could be a result
of seafood intake.
To continue active investigations, the ChemTox Laboratory at Illkirch
France was requested by Dr. Ben Weider
, President of the International
(Montreal, Canada) to test two hair specimens
derived from Napoleon for arsenic. New results
strands of hair, referenced as Noverraz (cut on 6 May 1821) and Grand
Maréchal Bertrand (cut on 6 May 1821.) were decontaminated from
external arsenic by washing with acetone and then incubated 6 h in
water at 90 °C. Arsenic speciation was carried out by HPLC–ICP/MS
using a cation-exchange PRP-X200 column that allows the detection of
arsenobetaine and an anion-exchange PRP-X100 column to test for the
The HPLC system was from SpectraSYSTEM (Thermo), consisting of a AS3000 autosampler
and a P1000XR + SCM1000 pump. The column outlet in both cases was
connected to the nebulizer of the ICP-MS (Thermo Electron X7).
these conditions, the inorganic species As(III), As(V) and their
metabolites (DMA and MMA) were separated. Analysis of hair samples
highlighted massive amounts of total arsenic (42.1 and 37.4 ng/mg).
species found in the two samples of analyzed hair are distributed in
the following: As(III) 31.1 and 44.7%; As(V) 66.3 and 53.2%; DMA 0.42
and 0.15%. Traces of MMA were detected, and 2% of the species could not
Although arsenobetaine is poorly incorporated
in hair, the absence of even traces of arsenobetaine indicates that
seafood cannot account for the arsenic detected in Napoleon's hair.
These results prove that more than 97% of the arsenic found in the hair
of Napoleon is in inorganic form, which is consistent with a chronic
intoxication by the most toxic inorganic arsenic species. The original study
Kintz, Morgane Ginet, Nadine Marques, Vincent Cirimele, Arsenic
speciation of two specimens of Napoleon's hair, Forensic Sci. Int.,
170/2-3 (2007) 204-206. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2007.02.035
S. Forshufud, H.
Smith, A. Wassén, Arsenic content of Napoleon's hair probably taken
immediately after his death
, Nature (London), 192 (1961) 103-05. doi: 10.1038/192103a0
H. Smith, S. Forshufud, A. Wassen, Distribution of arsenic in Napoléon's hair
, Nature (London), 194 (1962) 725-726. doi:10.1038/194725a0
Forshufud, H. Smith, A. Wassen, Napoleon's illness 1816-1821 in the
light of activation analyses in hairs from various dates
Toxicol., 20 (1964) 210-219. doi: 10.1007/BF00577893
H. Lander, P.R. Hodge, C.S. Crisp, Arsenic in hair and nails, its significance on acute arsenic poisoning
, J. Forens. Med., 12 (1965) 52–67.
H.A. Shapiro, Arsenic content of human hair and nails, its interpretation
, J. Forens. Med. 14
A.J. Van den Berg, J.J.M. de Geoij, J.P.W. Houtman, Arsenic Content of Human
Hair After Washing as Determined by Activation Analysis
, in: J.R.
DeVoe [ed.], Modern Trends in Activation Analysis, Vol. I. Washington, DC:
NBS, 1968, pp. 272-282.
E.F. Pearson, C.A. Pounds, A case involving the administration of known amounts of arsenic, and its analysis in hair
, J. Forens. Sci. Soc., 11 (1971) 229–234. Rita Cornelis
, Neutron activation analysis of hair, failure of a mission
, J. Radioanal. Chem. 15
R.A. Smith, A method to distinguish between arsenic in, and on human hair
Environ. Res. (U.S.A), 12 (1976) 171-173. doi:10.1016/0013-9351(76)90020-7
D. Maes, B.D. Pate, The absorption of arsenic into single human head hairs
J. Forensic Sci., 22 (1977) 89-94.
A.C. Leslie, H. Smith, Napoleon Bonaparte's exposure to arsenic during 1816
Arch. Toxicol., 41/2 (1978) 163-167. doi: 10.1007/BF00302528
D.E.H. Jones, K.W.D. Ledingham, Arsenic in Napoleon's wallpaper
, Nature (London), 299 (1982) 626-627. doi:10.1038/299626a0
Peter K. Lewin, Ronald G.V. Hancock, Paul Voynovich, Napoleon Bonaparte: no evidence of chronic arsenic poisoning
, Nature (London), 299 (1982) 627-628. doi:10.1038/299627a0
J.T. Hindmarsh, P.F. Corso, The death of Napoleon Bonaparte: a critical review of the cause
, J. History Med., 53 (1998) 201-218.
Weider, J.H. Fournier, Activation analyses of authenticated hairs of
Napoleon Bonaparte confirm arsenic poisoning
, Am. J. Forensic Med.
Pathol., 20/4 (1999) 378-382.
Amjad Shraim, Seishiro Hirano, Hiroshi Yamauchi, Extraction and Speciation of Arsenic in Hair Using HPLC-ICPMS
, Anal. Sci., 17/Sup. (2001) 1729
S.J. Steindel, P.J. Howanitz, The uncertainty of hair analysis for trace metals
, J. Am. Med. Assoc., 285 (2001) 83–85.
P. Kintz, J.P. Goullé, P.
Fornes, B. Ludes, A new series of hair analyses from Napoleon confirms
chronic exposure to arsenic
, J. Anal. Toxicol., 26 (2002) 584-585.
T. Hindmarsh, P.F. Corso, Les cheveux de Napoléon, source externe ou ingestion d'arsenic ?
, Ann. Toxicol. Anal., 14 (2002) 132
J. Thomas Hindmarsh, Caveats in hair analysis in chronic arsenic poisoning
Clin. Biochem. (Ottawa), 35/1 (2002) 1-11. doi:10.1016/S0009-9120(01)00282-X
Lin, R. Henkelmann, Contents of arsenic, mercury and other trace
elements in Napoleon's hair determined by INAA using the k0-method
Radioanal. Nucl. Chem., 257/3 (2003) 615-620. doi: 10.1023/A:1026129319306
Xilei Lin, D.
Alber, R. Henkelmann, Elemental contents in Napoleons hair cut before
and after his death: did Napoleon die of arsenic poisoning ?
Bioanal. Chem., 379/2 (2004) 218-220. doi: 10.1007/s00216-004-2536-y
Francesco Mari, Elisabetta Bertol, Vittorio Fineschi, Steven B Karch, Channelling the Emperor: what really killed Napoleon?
, Journal of The Royal Society of Medicine, 97/8 (2004) 397-399. DOI: 10.1258/0141076041550619
Jorge Yanez, Vladimir Fierro, Hector Mansilla, Leonardo Figueroa, Lorena Cornejo, Ramon M. Barnes, Arsenic speciation in human hair: a new perspective for epidemiological assessment in chronic arsenicism
, J. Environ. Monit., 7/12 (2005) 1335-1341. DOI: 10.1039/b506313b
Andrea Raab, Jörg Feldmann, Arsenic speciation in hair extracts
, Anal. Bioanal. Chem., 381/2 (2005) 332-338. DOI: 10.1007/s00216-004-2796-6
Kintz, Morgane Ginet, Vincent Cirimele, Multi-Element Screening by
ICP-MS of Two Specimens of Napoleon's Hair
, J. Anal. Toxicol., 30/8
E. Sanz, R. Muñoz-Olivas
, Christian Dietz
, J. Sanz, Carmen Cámara
, Alternative extraction methods for arsenic speciation in hair using ultrasound probe sonication and pressurised liquid extraction
, J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 22/2 (2007) 131-139. DOI: 10.1039/b608064m Related information Wikipedia: Napoleon Bonaparte Wikipedia: Arsenic poisoning Wikipedia: Saint Helena International Napoleonic Society: The assassination of Napoleon International Napoleonic Society: The poisoning of Napoleon: The final proof Napoleon Org: Arsenic and the Emperor CrimeLibrary: The death of Napoleon, murder or natural causes ? King James Medical Laboratory: Frequently Asked Question Regarding the Analysis of Metals in Hair Specimens CDC/ATSDR: Hair Analysis: Exploring the State of the Science EVISA:
LC-ICP-MS: The most often used hyphenated system for speciation analysis Related News ABC News in science, June 6, 2001: Napoleon poisoning theory revived NewScientistTech, October 29, 2002: Hair analysis clears Napoleon's 'poisoners' Toxipedia. Napoleon's Death by Arsenic Exposure...? Bryan Allison, Spring 2002: Cause of death: The mystery surrounding the death of Napoleon
last time modified: November 12, 2007