Napoléon was definitely poisoned

Here are some established and coherent results since 1960

Translated from the French News paper
«The Gazette Laboratory»
The Echoes of Research



N.102 - September 2005


Ben Weider, CM, CQ, SBStJ, PhD
President of the International Napoleonic Society


On the 2 nd of June 2005, Dr Pascal KINTZ, President of the International Association of Toxicologists in Forensic Medicine, and the ChemTox Laboratory presented their latest research on the toxicology study of Napoléon’s hair.

With this journey in mind, the International Napoleonic Society whose president Mr. Ben Weider furnished us with samples of hair to be used in our analysis, offered us a summary of the “whole story”…

Dr Pascal Kintz, Président de l'Association Internationale des Toxicologues de Médecine Légale


  • 1955: Sten FORSHUFVUD, a Swedish Stomatologist with great knowledge in toxicology he acquired in a Faculty of Sciences in France, discovers “The Memoirs” of a friend who had been deported with Napoléon to Saint-Hélène, his domestic MARCHAND. Some of the symptoms described in the memoirs remind him of a possible arsenical intoxication.


  • 1960: Sten FORSHUFVUD is able to obtain a strand of the Emperor’s hair from commandant Henry LACHOUQUE who had been the assistant curator of the Malmaison museum and a renowned Napoleonic historian.

This hair had been provided with certification of authenticity by the owner and had come from the MARCHAND estate. It was given for analysis to Professor Hamilton SMITH who was director of the Forensic Medicine Department at the University of Edinburgh.

The analysis is conducted by the method of neutron bombardment and reveals a strong arsenic content. In order to refine the analysis, Hamilton SMITH requests more hair.


  • 1961: Growing more confident with the promising results, Sten FORSHUFVUD contacts commandant LACHOUQUE in order to obtain more of Napoléon’s hair. He had transmitted the results obtained by professor Hamilton SMITH to the commandant who had praised him and encouraged him to continue. But, strangely enough, from the moment the analysis done by Professor Hamilton SMITH demonstrated the presence of the toxic substance in Napoléon’s hair, all doors were suddenly closed, including that of commandant LACHOUQUE. In order to pursue his research, the Swede had to turn to foreign places. Some samples with affidavits of authenticity, (Las Cases, Marchand…), arrive from Switzerland, Australia, and New Jersey…
    The new samples have the same results as the first test. Sten FORSHUFVUD compiles the results in a document that, in all modesty simply asks the question: “was Napoléon poisoned?” His research is ridiculed by the French Napoleonic historians.


  • 1995: The Canadian Ben WEIDER, president of the International Napoleonic Society of Montreal sends to the Service of Chemistry/Toxicology of the FBI, two strands of hair that had been owned by Count Las Cases, author of the well-known Memorial of Saint-Helena. The analysis of these two strands of hair, confirms all the preceding results. However the resistance of the “authorized” Napoleonic circles does not change; sarcasm and rejection, including from some French experts who agree that the samples tested by the FBI are too little for the results to be convincing.


  • 2000: On the 15 th of September Ben WEIDER entrusts some hair to Doctor Pascal KINTZ, who is a recognized leader in the field of toxicological analysis, and president of the Association of Forensic Toxicologists, five locks of Napoléon’s hair, which had been owned by Lady HOLLAND, Abbé VIGNALI, the domestic NOVERRAZ, the butler MARCHAND and Count LAS CASES. Let us remember that for toxicology tests, the interest in the hair resides in their capacity to: . accumulate the exposures of whatever substance no matter what the nature, be it drugs, doping substances, medicaments, toxics, or arsenic as in this case. . incorporate during the growing period (one centimeter/month) everything that is present in the blood. Hence, a hair that is six centimeters in length, allows one to go six months back into the biological past of a person. This time, two methods have been used to analyze Napoléon’s hair: - spectrophotometry of electrothermic (thermo-electric) atomic absorption: it revealed concentrations of arsenic of anywhere from 7 to 38 times the dose accepted as “natural”, a “natural” concentration found in everyone’s hair which varies according to the area from where the hair has been collected: 0,31 nanogram per milligram for hair taken from the nape of the neck; 0,35 on the vertex (the highest point on the median line of the top of the skull); 0,43 on the frontal zone; and 0,46 on the temporal zone. It is, then, logical that these differences are found in Napoléon’s hair.


  • The nano-SIMS (nano-secondary Ion mass spectrography): this is a piece of equipment that is used in pure research, and there are only ten of them in the world. Doctor KINTZ, and Professor WENNIG of the University of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg, using this equipment were able to determine that the toxic substance was present in the very heart of the hair (the “medulla”), which signifies that it had been carried in the blood-flow. This discovery definitively destroys the theory of hair contamination by preservation products (arsenic “exogenous”), the theory held amongst others, by Napoleonic historians in order to explain the presence of the toxic substance in Napoléon’s hair.


  • 2005: The results of these tests have been refined by doctor KINTZ and the ChemTox laboratory team. Their work was conducted on strands taken from two locks of hair: one called “Noverraz” (already analyzed during the preceding tests), and the other “Bertrand”, the name of the grand palace Marshall and the deportation companion of Napoléon. After decontamination by acetone and then a treatment by concentrated nitric acid, the samples were analyzed by ICP/MS (induced coupled plasma by mass spectrometry), which permits the simultaneous analysis of about thirty metals and metalloids. (See the most important results in table 1). So, through a new analytical approach, the massive concentrations in arsenic already observed in the past have been confirmed. The results of a base of calomel (mercury) and tartar emetic (antimony) is confirmed by the ChemTox analysis. The “plus” side of this research resides in the fact that scientists were able to determine the nature of the arsenic contained in Napoléon’s hair. There are two naturally occurring species of arsenic: one mineral, very toxic (Asill, AsV and their metabolites MMA and DMA); the other organic, not very toxic, such as arsenobetaine or arsenocholine found in food. After the Chromatographic separation, the speciation of the arsenic allows us to differentiate the species. (See results obtained in table 2).


It is then clearly apparent that the arsenic in Napoléon’s hair is of the mineral type, the most toxic kind known more commonly as “rat poison”; this undeniably reinforces the theory of chronic intoxication!


Chart 1

Noverraz (ng/mg) Bertrand (ng/mg) Normal (ng/mg)
42,1 37,4 Inferior at 1
2,10 1,76 Inferior at 0,1
3,33 4,68 Inferior at 1,5
229,2 111,8 Inferior at 5

Chart 2

Forms of arsenic
Noverraz Bertrand
31,1% 44,7%
66,3% 53,2%
0,03% 0,06%
0,42% 0,15%
Other species
2,11% 1,9%



The International Napoleonic Society

Founded in 1993 by Mr. Ben Weider, a Canadian businessman and a great admirer of Napoléon, The International Napoleonic Society is headquartered in Montreal. It is an educational nonprofit organization established under the authority of the Canadian Government to promote the study of the Napoleonic era. It counts over 500 members from all over the world, all historians, professors or writers who are experts in the Napoleonic era.

It grants scholarships to encourage and reward important contributions to the Napoleonic history. The Ben Weider foundation has indeed made a grant of $1,250.000 to an American University, the Florida State University, to facilitate the creation of a program of study on the French Revolution and the First Empire. This amount was matched by the State of Florida.

In the same spirit and through the medium of its bilingual internet website in French/English:


The International Napoleonic Society’s first and most important mission is to “provide full justice to Napoléon and to correct the lies and slander that have defiled his honor and gravely insulted his memory”.