Napoleon’s stomach ache

You may have heard about a current article in NCP Gastroenterology and Hepatology on the death of Napoleon Bonaparte. It seems that rather than being poisoned, as is often suggested in history books, the emperor was suffering from gastric cancer. The article is currently free access, so read the fascinating, if gory, details at the link.

3 thoughts on “Napoleon’s stomach ache

  1. A very interesting article. Was this published in Nature magazine, and if so, is it typical of the articles in the magazine? Fascinating stuff.

  2. Hello Susan. No, it wasn’t in Nature but in one of the “Nature Clinical Practice” journals — Nature has about 30 “spin off” journals — some of them are like Nature but for more specialist disciplines, publishing a mix of primary research and “secondary” comment; the Nature Reviews journals publish reviews of the scientific literature; and the Nature Clinical Practice journals are review material for clinicians and clinical researchers – basically so they can keep in touch with latest relevant scientific findings without having to trawl through the literature themselves. My new website explains about these, so I’ll put in an ad:

  3. Absolutely fascinating stuff. I love reading medical history of this sort. Another good ‘un is Fanny Burney’s *own* description of the radical mastectomy she underwent on her Parisian dining-room table. Her anesthetic consisted of one glass of wine. She sent her husband and son away so they wouldn’t have to hear her screams and scream she did (“the doctor did not have to enjoin me to give voice to my feelings,” she noted). She lived for years after, so the terrifying operation was a success.
    Yet I often wonder how people felt going under the knife in the 18th & 19th centuries. I think you had to believe you were going to die either way in order to try it. Look at Eakins’ “The Gross Clinic” (currently getting a lot of press in Phila.) to get a glimpse of the atmo. Who would want to be the poor patient thus immortalized?

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