ScienceDaily (Feb. 14, 2008) — Arsenic poisoning did not kill Napoleon in Saint Helena, as affirmed by a new meticulous examination performed at the laboratories of the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) in Milano-Bicocca and Pavia, together with the University of Milano-Bicocca and the University of Pavia.
The hairs were placed in capsules and inserted in the core of the nuclear reactor in Pavia. The technique used is known as “neutron activation”, which has two enormous advantages: it does not destroy the sample and it provides extremely precise results even on samples with an extremely small mass, such as human hair samples.
The examination produced some surprising results. First of all, the level of arsenic in all of the hair samples from 200 years ago is 100 times greater than the average level detected in samples from persons living today.