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November 1940

The Emperor's Itch

Arch Derm Syphilol. 1940;42(5):991-992. doi:10.1001/archderm.1940.01490170241028

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The author of this monograph has gathered together the pros and cons as to whether Napoleon's cutaneous disease was scabies, and in his summation he presents evidence which he believes is sufficiently convincing to throw doubt on that diagnosis. He suggests the possibility that the emperor's dermatosis was dermatitis herpetiformis or even neurotic excoriations. The book is copiously annotated and the subject most interestingly presented. With Dr. Friedman's well known interest in the historical side of scabies, this could not well be otherwise.

The reviewer, however, does not believe that the evidence submitted by the author is sufficiently conclusive to corroborate definitely the diagnosis of dermatitis herpetiformis or eliminate that of scabies. Out of the welter of contradictory statements from Napoleonic contemporaries, both medical and lay, one fact remains clear, and that is that Napoleon for many years did have a cutaneous disease, the nature of which can only approximately

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