The latest tests conducted at the Institut de Médecine Légale in Strasbourg, France, and at the Laboratoire de Santé at the University of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, have established definitive proof






Each year, experts in forensic toxicology gather for a conference under the auspices of The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT).

Founded in London in 1963, the Association’s headquarters is currently located in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Its 1,600 members are all highly trained scientists attached to laboratories serving law enforcement, hospitals, the offices of coroners and medical examiners, anti-doping laboratories, forensic medicine institutes, and departments of legal medicine, pharmacology, pharmacy and toxicology.

Each year, the TIAFT holds an international symposium, and has recently invited its members to Helsinki (2000), Prague (2001), and Paris (2002). Melbourne, capital city of Victoria, Australia, hosted the Association’s 41st International Meeting on November 17 – 22, 2003.

Among the participants was Dr. Pascal Kintz, former president of the Société Française de Toxicologie Analytique (French Society of Analytical Toxicology), and currently President Elect of The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists.
Dr. Kintz’s outstanding reputation in the scientific world is based in part on his research using specimens of Napoleon’s hair. Professor Robert Wennig of the
University of Luxembourg, and immediate past President of TIAFT, together with Dr. Kintz, presented the latest results, obtained at the University of Luxembourg using Nano-SIMS ( Nano-Secondary Ion Mass Spectrography ) imaging, showing arsenic to be present in the hair of the Emperor Napoleon.  

The test results make it official: the presence of the toxic substance in the medulla, the core of the hair, demonstrates unequivocally that Napoleon was the victim of chronic arsenic poisoning.

Pioneering the poisoning theory


A brief history of the development of this theory, and of its strangely dogged rejection by some French Napoleonic historians in the face of mounting scientific evidence, is in order at this point in the presentation.


May 5, 1821: Emperor Napoleon dies on St. Helena, where he had been deported by the British government.

The official cause of death – the only one acknowledged in France – is stomach cancer. “Hereditary,” the promoters of this theory insist. Below, we relate the opinion of a medical expert, who gives the facts concerning the supposedly hereditary nature of this illness.


First doubts

1955: The Memoirs of one of Napoleon’s fellow exiles, his valet Louis Marchand, are published. As he reads Marchand’s Memoirs, Swedish stomatologist Sten Forshufvud, who had previously studied toxicology at the University of Bordeaux in France, begins to question the commonly held belief that Napoleon died of an illness. Numerous symptoms described in the book match the clinical signs of chronic arsenic poisoning. Convinced that others will also note the presence of these symptoms, Dr. Forshufvud does nothing further for the time being.

First tests reveal the presence of arsenic


1961: Dr. Forshufvud obtains one of the Emperor’s hairs from Commandant Henry Lachouque, a well-known French Napoleonic historian who formally authenticated the provenance of the hair. Dr. Forshufvud then has the sample scientifically tested by Dr. Hamilton Smith who works at the department of Forensic Medicine at the University of Glasgow. Along with the Harwell Atomic Energy ResearchEstablishment near London, Dr. Smith had developed a method of bombarding a sample of hair with neutrons, activating the arsenic in such a way as to allow it to be measured with great precision. The tests reveal the presence of high concentrations of arsenic.



Following the publication of the results, doors in France suddenly close in the face of the amateur “historian-detective”. As a result, Dr. Forshufvud is, at first, unable to find other samples of hair that would allow Dr. Hamilton-Smith to widen the scope of the tests.



A brief digression on the semantics of “attributing” hair to Napoleon


The French scientists in Strasbourg and the agents of the FBI have always employed the formula “hairs attributed to Napoleon.” This is all that was needed for the French ‑ or more precisely the Parisian ‑ Napoleonic circles to cast a pall of suspicion, not on the tests themselves (since they lack the scientific competence to do so), but on the attribution of the hair to Napoleon. They put it bluntly: your tests prove there’s arsenic in the hair, but how valuable are these results if the hair is not Napoleon’s? 


First comment: The wording “hairs attributed to ...,” which is used by both the FBI and the Strasbourg laboratory, has only one meaning: persons invested with legal jurisdiction may not use the phrase “hairs belonging to ...” or “hairs taken from…” unless they have personally collected the sample from the donor. The wording is simply a matter of normal procedure.  

Second comment: Is it honestly reasonable to conceive that different samples of hair from all over the World, including Australia and belonging to five different people, should all present similar doses of arsenic?


Salvation came from abroad.

- First, from Clifford Frey of Switzerland , who donated twenty hairs that had once belonged to one of Napoleon’s servants, a Swiss citizen named Abraham Noverraz. The results: the 140
tests carried out by Dr. Hamilton Smith – he wrote by hand to Dr. Sten Forshufvud – revealed
“that the subject was exposed intermittently to significant quantities of arsenic.”

- Then, from Dame Mabel Brookes of Australia, a descendent of young Betsy Balcombe, who left a moving eyewitness testimony of Napoleon’s days on St. Helena. Having read about Dr. Forshufvud’s research in an article published in the scientific journal Nature, Dame Brookes sent Hamilton Smith a lock of hair that had been cut in 1816 by Napoleon’s servant, Marchand, at the request of the young lady.

- Later, in 1970, Mr. Gregory Troubetzkoy of New Jersey, a descendent of an aide-de-camp to the Russian Czar, Alexander the First, decided to add his stone to the edifice of the quest for truth. He offered to give Dr. Forshufvud six hairs from a lock that had once belonged to Las Cases, Napoleon’s memorialist. Tests carried out by Dr. Hamilton Smith revealed that these hairs also contained arsenic.


To make the results of his research available to the public, Dr. Forhufvud wrote a book on the subject entitled: Was Napoleon Poisoned? (Napoléon a-t-il été empoisonné?).

The book was ridiculed by French Napoleonic historians, who considered the results of the tests carried out by Dr. Smith to be of no value, and who likened the theory to the plot of a bad detective novel. Even today, this attitude remains entrenched despite the mounting evidence obtained by leading experts internationally recognized in the field of toxicology. 

Canadian Ben Weider enters the fray

In 1995, international entrepreneur, Dr. Ben Weider, who had been brought up by his father to revere Napoleon, founded the International Napoleonic Society to promote the study of the real personality of Napoleon.


Present in 40 countries, the Society today counts over 500 members, including several historians, among them, the Englishman Dr. David Chandler and American Dr. Don Horward


As soon as Dr. Weider got wind of Forshufvud’s theory, he hastened to make contact with the Swede. The two men first met in 1963. They saw each other again in 1966, and finally in 1974, “official” date of the Canadian’s entry into the arena, each time to define the best possible methods available to enable them to progress in their research and prove their theory.



Criticism from "official" Napoleonic circles in France rained down on the very
idea that Napoleon might have been poisoned. Meanwhile Ben Weider, who
was marshalling all the evidence he could find in support of the theory, managed —after a very long quest—to obtain some of Napoleon’s hair.

He went to the Chief of the FBI Laboratory’s Chemical/Toxicological Unit, and after having spent some time interesting him in the case, entrusted him with two hairs from the lock of hair belonging to Gregory Troubetzkoy.


Tests with Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy confirmed the results obtained by Dr. Hamilton Smith in Glasgow.


The Unit Chief for Chemistry/Toxicology, Roger M. Martz, sent the following comments along with the results:


Washington, DC

August 28, 1995

"The FBI Laboratory examined two of Napoleon’s hairs that you had submitted for arsenic analysis. Listed below are the arsenic results which were analyzed by Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy.

"The amount of arsenic present in the submitted hairs is consistent with poisoning by arsenic..."


Length (cm)
Weight (µg)

Weight (µg)








After having written three books, including The Murder of Napoleon in 1982 (one million copies sold, all editions inclusive), on the subject of the mysterious death of the Emperor, Ben Weider published yet another book in 1999 entitled Napoléon est-il mort empoisonné ?, and as yet, available only in French, in order to make known the results of the FBI analysis.


The French Napoleonic circle continued its “resistance” with renewed sarcasm.



A letter dated September 6, 2000, and addressed to Ben Weider

by Oncology Professor Emeritus Lucien Israel


“ I have read your work with interest, and I share your conclusions.”
“ The Emperor’s disorder began in 1816 and lasted five years. Stomach cancer (which, by the way, is not hereditary) that developed over such a long period of time could only have killed by metastasis to the lungs and most particularly, to the liver. No such pathologies were noted at the autopsy.
Another cause could have been catastrophic hemorrhaging. None occurred. Those are the main arguments, but there are others, such as the fact that the regional and mediastinal ganglia show suppuration, which is not explained by a diagnosis of gastric cancer.”
“I therefore believe that your theory [of poisoning] is the correct one.”





On May 4th, Ben Weider organized a symposium at the French Senate, to present the results obtained by the FBI to French experts in toxicology and to historians specialized in the Napoleonic era.


Just as the French historians – despite their understandable lack of training in scientific matters – had never accepted the results of the tests performed at the request of Dr. Sten Forshufvud by the University of Glasgow laboratory, French scientists, without openly admitting it, showed they were more than reluctant to accept tests performed at a foreign laboratory, be it that of the FBI itself.


Why this hostility? Because , on the one hand, the samples tested were extremely small, weighing 35 and 45 micrograms, and on the other hand, because the hairs had been segmented. For, the smaller the sample, the greater the risk of interference from “background noise” – comparable to the “hiss” of a blank cassette tape – in the machine. This background noise had disturbed the linearity of the signal output.


The tests make the presence of arsenic visible as a peak in the signal; the surface area of the peak gives an indication of the concentration of arsenic. The larger the surface, the greater the concentration of poison (or of any other substance traced). To obtain reliable results, it is important to have access to a sufficient quantity of biological material, in this case, hairs.


The FBI, which had worked with quantities approximately a thousand times smaller, was obliged to multiply by one hundred the low numbers obtained from the tiny quantity of hair available, in order to be able to express the results in the standard unit, the milligram. However, given the configuration in this case, the peaks resulting from the background noise of the machine had themselves also been multiplied by one hundred. This made it difficult to distinguish between a “true” result revealing arsenic poisoning, and a background noise signal.

Notwithstanding these technical difficulties, these results did provide confirmation for the test results previously obtained in Glasgow.



The Opinion of Two Well-known Historians


Having taken the time to seriously consider all sides of the matter – as befits the ethical historical scholar – Dr David Chandler, former professor at Britain’s Royal Military Academy of Sandhurst, and Dr Donald Horward of Florida State University, both men internationally recognized experts on the First Empire, overcame their reticence.


David Chandler : It is clear now that Napoleon was poisoned. I accept this fact, although I had doubts on the subject for years (Sunday Times, January 12, 2003). It remains to clarify who the murderer or murderers were (Folio, the British Folio Society’s periodical review).


Donald Horward  : The research undertaken by Ben Weider allows the reader to reconsider the causes of the death of Napoleon, and there is no doubt that Weider’s is the most likely of all the explanations of the events surrounding Napoleon’s death.


As for French Napoleonic historians, they responded by launching an attack in the press against the man who had dared to trample on their turf.

Anyone who masters French will have noted that some of the articles border on defamation of character.

After deciding to take their reservations into account, Dr. Weider announced publicly that he would proceed with further tests at a major laboratory, which would be located in France this time.


A leading laboratory in the toxicological analysis of hair


The laboratory selected was the Institut de Médecine Légale in Strasbourg (see sidebar).





The Institute, which symbolizes a tradition of two hundred years of forensic medicine in Alsace, belongs to the Faculty of Medicine at the Université Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg.

It is run by lecturer-researchers who are experts at the Colmar Court of Appeals.

Like all institutions of its kind, the Strasbourg Institute has a clinical practice
(200 autopsies and 100 forensic examinations per year) which it carries out in cooperation with other medical disciplines (treatment of the victims of physical, sexual, and psychological assault). In addition, the Institute performs research in molecular biology, most particularly in the specialization for which it is best known, forensic toxicology.

This unit, the largest at the Institute in terms of number of researchers working there, performs a thousand different analyses per year. It is one of only five laboratories of its kind in the world recognized by the international scientific community for analysis of hair samples. From fifteen to twenty percent of the existing publications on this topic were written by researchers at the Strasbourg Institute




On September 15, 2000, Ben Weider gave five samples of hair to be tested to
Professor Bertrand Ludes, Director of the Strasbourg Institute, and to Dr. Pascal Kintz, Head of the Institute’s toxicological testing laboratory and, then, President of the French Society of Analytical Toxicology. The samples were authenticated locks of Napoleon’s hair:


- The “Lady Holland” lock : Las Cases relates that together with her husband, a nephew of British politician Charles James Fox, who Napoleon held in high esteem, Lady Holland succeeded in securing for the deported Emperor, newspapers and various presents, such as “an apparatus newly invented for the purpose of making ice,” since it was known that Napoleon liked cool drinks. (Unfortunately, the machine did not perform as promised).

- The “Abbé Vignali” lock : cut on May 6, 1821

- The “ Noverraz” lock: cut on May 6, 1821, the day after the death of Napoleon.
The lock was sent by Noverraz on September 8, 1838 (and postmarked on the 9th) to a
person named Mons-Riss, who lived in Saint-Gall, Switzerland.

“It is,” wrote Noverraz, “a great pleasure today, Monsieur Mons, to send you some hairs of the Emperor Napoleon which I took from his head after his death. That was May the 6 th, 1821.”

Hairs from this same lock, which subsequently became the property of Swiss entrepreneur Clifford Frey, had already been analyzed by Dr. Hamilton Smith.

- The “ Louis Marchand” lock: this lock belonged to Commandant Henry Lachouque, mentioned above.

- The “Las Cases” lock: the origin of this lock was a uthenticated by a passage dated Wednesday the 16 th of October, 1816, in the Memorial de Sainte-Hélène written by Las Cases.

“At the hour of his toilet, the Emperor had his hair cut by Santini [who had also accompanied him when he was exiled on Elba]; I was at his side, standing a pace behind him, when a large tuft of hair fell at my feet. The Emperor saw me stoop, and asked me what it was. I replied that I had retrieved something that I had dropped. He pinched my ear and smiled. He had just guessed the truth.”

The original envelope containing the hairs bore these words:

“Hairs from the Head of Napoleon retrieved by me at Longwood, as indicated in the Memorial, and given to Mr. William Fraser.


To sum up : the provenance of the five locks of hair entrusted to the scientists at the Strasbourg Institut de Médecine Légale is indisputable, and entirely authenticated (below we will see the importance of this point). 


A reminder : during the conference-debate given at Strasbourg on January 14, 2003, one of the participants (along with Dr. Pascal Kintz), Mr. Thierry Lentz, Director of the Fondation Napoléon, and a relentless opponent to the theory of chronic arsenic poisoning, consented to admit – publicly – that the hairs given by Dr. Ben Weider to the Strasbourg Institut de Médecine Légale were authentic.


Why hair is an interesting specimen for toxicological analysis


While ordinary “witnesses” used in forensic medicine (blood, urine, saliva… all unavailable in the case of Napoleon) retain traces of foreign substances for only a few hours to a week, hair retains these substances over many years.

Hairs remain “reliable witnesses” for years, and examining them makes it possible to study a person’s biological past. The average rate of growth being about one centimeter per month, a hair that is 6 centimetres long goes back 6 monthsinto the person’s past.


As biological tissue, hairs also have two major advantages:


- They accumulate a record of exposure to any substance (drugs, doping agents, medication or, in the present case, arsenic);


- They incorporate along their entire length every substance present in the blood. (At a rate of one centimeter per month, a hair six centimeters long allows up to six months of a person’s “biological past” to be examined.)


This time, the French scientists at Strasbourg had a sufficient quantity of samples (from 0.5 to 2.2 milligrams) to work on, and this removed the problem their American colleagues at the FBI had previously encountered.



Methods of Analysis


There are only two tests that are validated by allinternational tribunals (an essential point that requires special mention here, as we will see further on):


- Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS)


ICP-MS involves the use of a plasma torch, and would have required a hair
specimen weighing at least 100 mg. The scientists ruled out the use of this method due to its high consumption of biological material.


- Electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry (ETAAS)


Like most highly scientific testing methods, ETAAS is impossible to explain in everyday language. Its mode of operation has been succinctly outlined by Dr. Pascal Kintz as follows: the arsenic present in the biological sample (in this case, the hair specimen) is vaporized and atomized at high temperatures. It is then capable of absorbing radiation of a specific wavelength. The higher the number of arsenic atoms in the specimen—the higher its concentration of arsenic—the more radiation it will absorb. A low-arsenic specimen will absorb only 5 millirems out of a radiation dose of 100 millirems, while a specimen containing large quantities of arsenic will absorb 40 to 50 millirems.


The preliminary decontamination, which is standard procedure in forensic medicine, consists of “washing” the hair to be analyzed. This removes any substances, which may have been deposited along the hair shaft, such as preservatives, which are often cited by French Napoleonic historians as their explanation for the presence of arsenic in Napoleon’s hair. Indeed, apart from what is absorbed from the bloodstream, any substances present in the sweat or sebum of the scalp may collect on the outer sheath of the hair (see diagram below), and these must be removed before the analysis can proceed.

This illustration shows the different mechanisms by which hair may be contaminated. Note that only the bloodstream can conduct a toxin to the cortex of the hair. The presence of a toxin in the hair cortex thus provides evidence of poisoning
through ingestion.


The best example is that of persons attending a party where marijuana is smoked: if their hair is not first decontaminated, it could test positive.

The hairs of Napoleon were therefore first decontaminated. This process consists of a number of stages. First, the hairs are passed through three successive baths (two of which are in acetone) and are vigorously agitated each time. After this treatment, any substance present on the outer sheath of the hair will drain into the liquid of the decontaminating bath.
This leaves the hair ready for analysis of the substances that are contained in its internal structure.

The test results


Arsenic is part of a “normal” environment and is rarely totally absent from the body (see below). This is why there are “tolerance” levels for arsenic, which vary from country to country.

Arsenic is present in tiny quantities in all human hairs, as can be seen in this cross-section. But, here, unlike in Napoleon’s hairs, the medulla (the dark part in the center) shows no trace of arsenic.


The results, which appear in the Table below, speak for themselves.

They show:

1) That the hairs of Napoleon present (in rounded numbers) concentrations of the toxic substance that are 7 to 38 times the “normal.”

2) That there are significant differences in the concentrations found.


What are the reasons for this?


- Average concentrations of “natural” arsenic found in the hairs of any individual vary considerably according to the part of the scalp from which they are taken. In a healthy subject, these doses are 0.35 ng/mg for hairs taken from the crown (the highest point of the calvarium along its medial line), 0.43 for hairs taken from the area of the forehead, 0.31 along the nape of the neck, and 0.46 around the temples. As can be seen below, these distinctions fit logically with the hypothesis of chronic poisoning.















Lady Holland
(Cut May 6, 1821)


1,2 mg


4-6 cm


38,53 ng/mg

Abbé Vignali
(Cut May 6, 1821)

  2,0 mg

 5-6 cm

 15,50 ng/mg



(Cut May 6, 1821)

2,2 mg


6-9 cm



6,99 ng/mg


(Cut May 6, 1821)


0,5 mg


4-6 cm



15,20 ng/mg


Las Cases
(Cut October 16, 1816) )

0,5 mg

 2 cm

 7,43 ng/mg

- Since the samples analyzed were not all of the same length, they had not absorbed equivalent quantities of arsenic.


- Finally, although it cannot be proved with absolute certainty, some of the hairs may have been in the “anagenic” phase (the period of actual growth, lasting six months to a year), while others may have been in the “catagenic” phase (the period of inertia during which the hair ingests no substances), or even in the “teleogenic” phase, the point at which the hair is ready to fall out.


What is the origin of the arsenic detected ?
The varying theories of the “traditionalists”


Here we touch on one of the preferred gambits used by French Napoleonic historians to refute or disparage our theory.

According to them, the presence of this toxic substance could be explained by the following causes:

Use of pharmaceutical preparations : Napoleon does not appear to have required any, or certainly not in such massive doses.

The drinking water : this was analyzed in the 1990s. The concentrations of arsenic were extremely low. If the drinking water had been the source, Napoleon would not have been the only person in his entourage to be poisoned.

Wallpaper, smoke from the fire, etc .: As mentioned above, Napoleon would not have been the only person poisoned.

Products used to preserve the hair : this possibility is the “warhorse” of the opponents to the theory of criminal poisoning, as will be seen further on. In France Napoleonic historians have been comforted in this old belief by the analysis published in the French popular science magazine Science & Vie (see below).

According to the leading champion of the “traditionalist” party, French historian Jean Tulard, a historian never affirms anything without formal proof (see further on). This, however, does not stop the same “traditionalists” from continuously and very seriously invoking all of the causes mentioned above as possible explanations for arsenic intoxication.

This divergence of certitudes is surprising enough, but more surprising still is the condescending attitude this French historian shows for the research of others, while he never seems to question his own theories enough to ask himself why these strange ambient toxic agents affected solely Napoleon and not his companions.


Seafood : an “original” idea put forward during the May 2000 symposium at the French Senate, by the representative of a large official laboratory.

According to this hypothesis, the arsenic present in the hair of Napoleon found its origin in… oysters and other seafood. This hypothesis - all the more original as it came from a representative of an official laboratory - was summarily dismissed by a Professor of Medicine present at the symposium, who pointed out that organic arsenic, such as that found in shellfish and seafood, is always immediately eliminated by the body.  


The same traditionalist historians who “never affirm anything without proof” do not hesitate to add to the list, and always with the same grave and solemn assurance.

Boredom : in November of last year during a trip to São Paulo, where the
Fondation Napoléon played the role of commissioners to an exhibition dedicated to Napoleon, Foundation Director Thierry Lentz made the following broad claim to a
gathering of Brazilian journalists:

“Napoleon did not die of poisoning. He was tubercular [sic], he had an ulcer, and above all, he was bored. He died of boredom and sorrow” (end of quotation).

Yet where is the scientific “proof” to back up this extraordinary theory?


Finally, the arsenic may have been used as a toxic agent : this is the theory advanced by the International Napoleonic Society. Scientific proof for this theory has been established by tests carried out at the Strasbourg Institut de Médecine Légale.


In the February 1, 2004 issue of the Corsican newspaper, Corse Matin, historian
Jean Tulard made the following declaration in an interview:

“They are making a fuss about traces of poison detected in his hair, but in Napoleon’s time, they soaked locks of hair in solutions of arsenic to preserve them! You see, a historian never makes a statement without formal proof” (end of quotation).


Question : Considering the results obtained by Professor Wennig and Dr. Kintz using Nano-SIMS at the University of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, what explanation will this long-standing opponent to the poisoning theory find now to justify the presence of poison in the cortex of Napoleon’s hair?



The Test Results Published in Science & Vie :
The method used has never been validated

by international tribunals


In November 2002 (issue 1022), Science & Vie, a French popular science magazine, published an article advertised on its cover by this title:

“Exclusive! – Napoleon was not assassinated”, with the following peremptory declaration in the headline:

“The conclusions of our inquiry are reported here: the evidence is irrefutable.”

In other words, the results of the tests carried out by the scientists of the Strasbourg Institut de Médecine Légale were completely erroneous.


Essential facts : as noted above, there are two — and only two — methods recognized and accepted by international tribunals for analyzing the levels of toxic substances in hair. The Strasbourg Institut de Médecine Légale used one of these methods for the series of tests it carried out at the end of the year 2000.

What about the method that was used by the laboratory of the Paris Préfecture de Police, to whom the popular science magazine gave a lock of Napoleon’s hair?


A key point : the technology used by this laboratory has never been validated by international tribunals, and its results have been published only once, in a popular science magazine that is not peer-reviewed.

In other words, if this method had been used to gather evidence in a criminal case, the results obtained would have been rejected by the court.

The test carried out by this laboratory, only analyzed the outer layers of the hair which revealed concentrations of arsenic well above those tolerated by the human body.
These concentrations were also seen to be distributed evenly along the hair, almost as if the hair had been coated with a protective film. 



Intoxication –Active Incorporation – Poisoning


To try to disprove any supposition that Napoleon was poisoned, opponents latched onto the fact that the word “poisoning” was never used.
There is a simple explanation to this: the term is not part of the terminology used by forensic scientists, who do not have a mandate to replace magistrates (or historians, in this case), and who are expected to simply furnish the objective test results, on the basis of which the magistrate will arrive at his own professional opinion as to the likelihood of criminal poisoning.
Resorting to this fallacious argument as a way of ridiculing the theory is tantamount to blatant intellectual dishonesty.



According to the magazine, since arsenic was already present on hair that was cut in 1805 and 1814, that is before Napoleon was deported to St. Helena, the presence of arsenic cannot be due to “poisoning by ingestion”; it must be due to contamination by “conservation agents.” Conclusion: the contamination can only be external.

There is a serious flaw in this reasoning, which the readers of Science & Vie cannot have detected, because the article was written in such thick scientific “jargon” that, without the proper background, ordinary readers found themselves forced to accept the conclusions without being able to verify their merits.

Here is the flaw in the reasoning:

If, as the magazine claims, the arsenic is present only on the surface of the hair, a proper decontamination procedure (in simple terms: washing the hair properly) would eliminate it. The toxic substance would drain into the water, which would then, in turn, be analyzed: if the water subsequently tested positive for arsenic, this would constitute proof that the contamination was in fact external, and that the arsenic was “exogenous.”

This was not the case, which proves that the contamination could not be due to preservatives.

Hence the necessity to test the core of the hair samples to determine whether the arsenic was “endogenous,” in other words, grown into the hair through the bloodstream, and therefore “actively incorporated”. Tests to this effect were carried out in the autumn of 2003 in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

Top scientists help establish Historical Truth


Dr. Pascal Kintz had kept two of the hairs from the specimens used in the earlier tests carried out in the year 2000. One hair came from the specimen identified as “Las Cases,” while the other came from the specimen identified as “Abbé Vignali.”

The new tests were run using Nano-SIMS (Nano-Secondary Ion Mass Spectrography), a machine used only for research. There are only ten such mass spectrometers in the world (see the illustration below). It should be noted that the Nano-SIMS, which was placed at the disposal of Dr. Kintz by Dr. Robert Wennig, Professor of Toxicology at the University of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, is a machine that is not generally used in ordinary forensic medicine.

If a criminal court had to judge the “Napoleon Case”, or any other case, the previous tests carried out with atomic absorption spectroscopy would have been sufficient.

In Autumn 2003, Professor Wennig and Dr. Kintz used this equipment, located at the University of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, to perform the latest tests on samples of Napoleon’s hair..
The results suggested that the poison had been “grown” into the hair via the bloodstream,


However, given the polemics surrounding Napoleon’s hair, it was considered imperative to use Nano-SIMS in order to put an end to the tenacious myth of external contamination.

The Nano-SIMS 50: Analysis

The specimen (hair) is “sliced into rounds,” inserted into a specially designed steel airlock, and then “bombarded” with cesium ions .
Under the effect of this bombardment, the sample emits complementary radiation with the wavelength specific to arsenic. This makes it possible to establish a “profile” of the specimen (in this case of the hair) as seen in the illustration in the following paragraph.


The previous method: atomic absorption spectroscopy, also used by the FBI, had already provided quantitative evidence pertaining to the hair’s overall “environment”. With Nano-SIMS, the analysis went to the hair’s innermost core.


Two images that put doubt to rest


The “profile” shown below was obtained by Nano-SIMS, whose functioning is explained and illustrated in the diagram and sidebar above.

The Nano-SIMS profile shows clearly that the medulla, the core of the
hair, contains a toxic substance, in this case, arsenic. The only logical
explanation is chronic poisoning.


There are a number of very large “spots” clearly visible in the medulla, the innermost part of the hair, that reveal the presence of arsenic.

The fact that some arsenic appears on the surface is very probably due to handling, as seen in the test results reported in the French popular science magazine Science & Vie. However, the important and irrefutable fact is that these images put an end once and for all to the hypothesis of external contamination by products used to preserve the locks of hair.

- A key point to remember : the very high correlation between the concentrations measured by atomic absorption spectroscopy and the concentrations observed at the Luxembourg laboratory using Nano-SIMS.

- Since the 1960s , scientists who have studied and analyzed the “Napoleon Case” have – always – obtained coherent and consistent results: arsenic concentrations that are from 7 to 38 times the maximum tolerated dose.

- These results were confirmed by the tests carried out , at the end of the year 2000, by the Strasbourg Institut de Médecine Légale, which used the method of electrothermic atomic absorption spectroscopy.

- Further confirmation was provided by the analysis carried out at the University of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg using Nano-SIMS, which found traces of the toxic substance in the medulla, the innermost core of Napoleon’s hair. The obstinacy of a few Napoleonic historians cannot change these scientifically established facts.







Ben Weider

President of the International Napoleonic Society

Tel  : (514) 731 3784

Fax  : (514) 731 9026





Jean-Claude Damamme

Official Representative of the International Napoleonic Society

Tel: (0) 1 47 47 98 01

e-mail :


( St. Helena , Napoleon to Dr. Barry E. O’Meara)