Massive 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. 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. 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.
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