Making Medical Myths – the Case of Maximilien Robespierre, by Peter McPhee

A Revolution in Fiction

Reconstructed face of robespierre acc to Philippe FroeschMassive media interest followed the digital reconstruction in late 2013 of Robespierre’s face and a new medical diagnosis by Philippe Froesch of the Visual Forensic Laboratory (Barcelona), a specialist in 3D facial reconstruction, and Philippe Charlier from the medical anthropology and medico-legal team at the Université de Versailles-St. Quentin, France. Their conclusion, reported in The Lancet in December 2013, was that Maximilien Robespierre suffered from sarcoidosis, a crippling auto-immune disorder in which the body’s defences attack its own organs and tissues.[1] He was dying from within before he was killed from without.

In making their claims Charlier and Froesch rely in large part on the evidence I adduced of his illnesses and their symptoms in a recent biography and article.[2] But they ignored my historian’s caution about the use of such evidence, raising troubling suggestions about the willingness of these medical researchers to sacrifice judiciousness for media publicity.

Some evidence…

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One thought on “Making Medical Myths – the Case of Maximilien Robespierre, by Peter McPhee

  1. I find it quite strange how people will argue about such things when there is little or no evidence to support them. The life of Robespierre is well documented, and an interesting part of the upheaval that was the French revolution. Does his medical condition at the time have any relevance today? Well, not for me. I am far more interested in his role in the politics of the day.
    That said, I still enjoyed reading it!
    Best wishes, Pete.


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