Medicine

SOLV­ING HIS­TOR­I­CAL COLD CASES WITH HIND­SIGHT - AND MOD­ERN TECH­NIQUES

Newsweek - - Contents -

Di­ag­nos­ing Very Cold Cases

For the past 25 years, Philip Mack­owiak, a pro­fes­sor (now emer­i­tus) at the Univer­sity of Mary­land School of Medicine, in Bal­ti­more, has hosted a con­fer­ence about solv­ing the mys­te­ri­ous deaths of his­tor­i­cal ɿgures 7he gath­er­ings have gen­er­ated some very in­trigu­ing di­ag­noses for peo­ple like Joan of Arc, Abra­ham Lin­coln and this yearšs selec­tion, Sal­adin, the ɿrst sul­tan of(gypt Newsweek spoke to Mack­owiak about his ob­ses­sion with cold cases, which be­gan with the writer (dgar Al­lan Poe

What about Poe’s death in­trigued you?

In 1849, Poe was found in a gut­ter in Bal­ti­more and died soon af­ter 7he pre­sen­ter in our ɿrst con­fer­ence thought his symp­toms were from ra­bies Based on the writer’s life and med­i­cal his­tory, it seemed more likely to me that he died from delir­ium tremens, a con­di­tion stem­ming from al­co­hol with­drawal

Don’t we know the cause of death for Abra­ham Lin­coln and Joan of Arc?

Our ques­tion sur­round­ing Joan of Arc’s death was slightly dif­fer­ent :e set up a court to rule on whether she should have been ac­quit­ted based on a plea of in­san­ity Ei­ther she was delu­sional, or she had con­ver­sa­tions with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of *od Our Mury chose to be­lieve the for­mer In­ci­den­tally, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake not be­cause of her pro­fessed con­ver­sa­tions but be­cause she wore men’s cloth­ing

For Abra­ham Lin­coln, we wanted to know whether he would have sur­vived if he’d had ac­cess to mod­ern trauma care 7he head of a shock trauma unit con­cluded that Lin­coln may have sur­vived and con­tin­ued his pres­i­dency At the time, I thought that con­clu­sion was ridicu­lous-a bul­let went through the left side of his head, de­stroy­ing every­thing in its path But af­ter suf­fer­ing the same wound, Gabrielle Gif­fords re­cov­ered

What about Beethoven?

Beethoven was ill most of his life +e prob­a­bly had ir­ri­ta­ble bowel syn­drome as a young man +e be­gan los­ing his hear­ing in his early 30s and was to­tally deaf by 50 Beethoven had a mul­ti­fac­eted ill­ness that in­cluded end-stage cir­rho­sis :hen he died, he was cough­ing up blood and his ab­domen was full of acidic ʀuid An au­topsy re­vealed ev­i­dence of brain at­ro­phy, shriv­eled au­di­tory nerves and some bony ab­nor­mal­i­ties +e was Must a wreck Our con­fer­ence pre­sen­ter thought he prob­a­bly had syphilis It may have been con­gen­i­tal, but we also know that Beethoven was pa­tron­iz­ing pros­ti­tutes at a time when 10 per­cent of the European pop­u­la­tion was thought to have syphilis

And why Sal­adin this year?

7he strife in the +oly Land right now is not much dif­fer­ent from his time; the play­ers are dif­fer­ent, but many of the prob­lems are the same Inɿght­ing within Is­lam was a mamor prob­lem for Sal­adin >his full Ara­bic name was Salah al-'in <usuf ibn Ayyub@, who spent more time ɿght­ing other sects than ɿght­ing Chris­tians-though when he did turn his at­ten­tion to them, he crushed the Frank­ish forces that had con­trolled Jerusalem for about 80 years

What was his likely cause of death?

7uber­cu­lous menin­gi­tis, based on his headaches and the men­tal prob­lems he e[pe­ri­enced as he be­came sicker Shortly be­fore he died, he sweated so much that it went through his mat­tress and formed a pud­dle on the ʀoor; that kind of per­spi­ra­tion is also some­what char­ac­ter­is­tic of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, which was ram­pant in that area at the time Our pre­sen­ter, how­ever, be­lieved Sal­adin died from ty­phoid fever

Who is your sub­ject for 2019?

A religious ɿgure who died of a mys­te­ri­ous ill­ness dur­ing the early me­dieval times :e will have a di­ag­nos­ti­cian with ac­cess to a su­per­com­puter pit­ted against a doc­tor crowd­sourc­ing the di­ag­no­sis with a net­work of physi­cians — Jes­sica Wapner

HIS­TORY’S MYS­TER­IES Clockwise from top left: Poe, Sal­adin, Joan of Arc, Lin­coln and Beethoven.

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