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Message Publié : 15 Nov 2008 10:00 
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Inscription : 14 Déc 2002 15:30
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London, Tuesday.
Among the relics in the Museum of the Royal
College of Surgeons are two small fragments
preserved in spirit and labelled :— " Two small;
portions of small intestine with cancerous ■■
growths projecting above the mucous mem-
brane. They came from the museum of Sir
Astley Cooper with the following description:
' Incipient fungus in the glands of an intes-
tine. Napoleon. Barry O'Meara to Sir Astley
Cooper.' It is almost certain that these speci-
mens were not taken from the body of
Napoleon."

Professor Arthur Keith, the conservator of
the museum, has recently carried out investiga-
tions into the history and nature of these re-
markable specimens, and he has arrived at
6ome conclusions which he will lay before the
Hunterian Society at their meeting hi St.
Bartholomew's Hospital to-night. His theory
is contrary to that accepted by most of the
writers on the last years of Napoleon, including
lx>rd Rosebery and M. Paul Fremeaux, the
author of " The Drama of St. Helena." He
claims, in the first place, that no has estab-
lished the authenticity of the relics, at present
generally doubted; and, in the second, that be
has proved that the contention made by
Napoleon's surgeon at St. Helena that the Em-
peror suffered from a form of tropical fever
contracted on the island was true. If his theory
is accurate, the accounts of Napoleon's last
years and illness will have to be rewritten.

Dr. Keith gave a summary of his case to a
London representative of the " Manchester
Guardian " to-day. He will point out in his
paper that the verdict of modern writers is
(1) that in his last illness Napoleon was at-
tended by a series of incompetent physicians
who formed a wrong opinion of the case and
applied disastrous remedies, and (2) Napoleon
died of cancer of the stomach, the Emperor
himself being the only one to form an approxi-
mately accurate diagnosis. He will show that
the two specimens from the museum are actu-
ally parts of the great Emperor's body, and that
they tend to support the now discredited state-
ments of the Emperor's physicians as to the
nature of the disease — namely, that Napoleon
suffered from liver disease induced by the
malignancy of the climate. The specimens
themselves resemble two small oblong tags of
dusky ekin each with a curious wart-like raised
patch in its centre. Professor Keith explains
why this source of evidence — by far the most
important that exists — has been neglected dur-
ing the past seventy years. It has been taken



specimens that they contain undoubted evi-
dence of cancer, and this being eo doubt has
been thrown on their' authenticity on the
ground that Dr. AntommaTchi, Napoleon's per-
sonal physician, states in his account of the
post-mortem examination that the mucous
membrane of t.his oanal appeared to be in a
sound state — a statement supported by the
English 6urgeons present at the autopsy. Fur-
ther, Dr. Barry O'Meara was recalled to Eng-
land three years before Napoleon's death, " and
the steps taken by Napoleon's personal attend-
ants to prevent the abstraction of the heart and
6tomach also show the improbability of these
specimens baving had the source ascribed to
them " (October, 1883). The same line of argu-
ment is taken in a letter from M. Paul Fre-
meaux published in an English newspaper re-
cently. There the matter Tested until sections
of the outgrowths were examined under the
microscope — a method uwused in diagnosis
until long after Napoleon's time. This examin-
ation showed that they were not cancerous in
nature, and that the patches were similar to
those which appear in many chronic diseases
that are endemic in the tropics.

The Authenticity of the Relics.

Professor Keith's faith in the authenticity of
the relics rested on his belief in Sir Astley
Cooper, who was one of the most learned and
popular surgeons of his time. "He was the
trusted medical adviser to Lord Liverpool, the
Tory Prime Minister during the exile, illness,
and death of Napoleon. He was well acquainted
With Lord Bathurst, Secretary for War and the
Colonies, who had the care and keeping of
Napoleon. He must have been consulted often
by these two men about the Emperor's case.
If anyone in England could possibly command
or obtain any first-hand evidence from a post-
mortem examination he was that man, and he
was the last person in the world to deceive
himself or wilfully mislead others. We may be
certain therefore that he knew how O'Meara
obtained the specimens." Dr. Keith's belief in
the authenticity is strengthened by a passage
which has been overlooked in Antommarchi's
report to the effect that he found " small spots
and patches of a pale red colour " in this part
of the body. How was it, then, that the official
report drawn up by the five medical officers
who were present made no mention of these
appearances? The official report simply states
that the stomach was the seat of an extensive
cancer, and that the rest of the body was
healthy except that the upper surface of the
liver was bound to the dome of the diaphragm
by adhesions. But every medical man knows
that the official report cannot be true. A can-
cer so extensive must have spread, and thbe
must ha.'e been secondary growths. That there
were such secondary growths is learned from
Antommarchi's report. The reasons that. we have
to go to Antommarchi's account to Obtain the
accurate details of the marks of disease are
fir.siL that he was an «vt.rAtn«1ir »KU n-iili'-. • x



and pathologist, and, secondly, the official re-
port was a political and not a medical docu-
ment. "' It had to convince the opponents of
Lord Liverpool's Government and the enemies
of the Governor of St. Helena, Sir Hudson
Lowe, and the partisans ot Napoleon that the
Emperor died not from a disease caused by his
confinement but by one which was regarded at
that time as a dispensation of Providence."

How then did the relics pass from Anto-
marchi to O'Meara? Professor Keith has in-
vestigated . in detail the history of the two men,
and has shown that Antommarchi before going
to St. Helena had full opportunity of ascertain-
ing from O'Meara in London the nature of
Napoleon's complaint, and that there were good
reasons why he should afterwards have sent
the specimens to O'Meara in support of the
theory which they both held— namely, that
Napoleon was killed by his confinement in St.
Helena. From the summer of 1816 to his death
in 1821 Napoleon suffered from a peculiar fever
then prevalent in St. Helena. For taking this
view O'Meara was dismissed in disgrace by
ignorant laymen. The truth is, according to
Professor Keith, that in Napoleon's case the
presence of cancer was masked by the severity
of the original tropical disease. The post-
mortem would confirm Antommarchi in the
diagnosis which O'Meara and he had made —
namely, that the Emperor died of St. Helena
disease. Finally, Professor Keith argues that
it would have been quite easy for Antommarchi
to have abstracted the specimens either during
or after the autopsy, and that it is likely that
Antommarchi gave the relics to O'Meara in
London to add to his collection of Napoleonic
relics and to prove their common theory.

Now that these relics have been submitted to
modern methods they show, not signs of can-
cer but signs of tropical disease. It is an open
question, Dr. Keith adds, whether it was the
fever or the cancer which actually killed
Napoleon.tbut it is certain that whether in St.
Helena or out of it cancer would have ended
the career of the great Emperor.

_________________
"Tant que les Français constitueront une Nation, ils se souviendront de mon nom."

Napoléon.


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