A study conducted by a group of Canadian scientists and published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports debunks a longstanding myth surrounding the ill-fated end of the Franklin Expedition. An analysis of thumbnail samples taken from John Hartnell, a crew member of the HMS Terror, has revealed that lead poisoning was not the cause of his death, as was long believed.
A team of scientists, led by Dr. Jennie Christensen, an associate of Stantec and CEO and founder of TrichAnalytics, in partnership with the universities of Saskatchewan, Victoria, and Ottawa, and Canadian Light Source (CLS), used an array of sophisticated laser and mapping techniques to reveal the diet and metal exposure of crew members throughout the early expedition. Moreover, uOttawa biology professor Laurie Chan, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Toxicology and Environmental Health, used stable isotope analysis to assess protein sources in Hartnell’s diet.
The study found that John Hartnell’s diet was deficient in zinc, which may have suppressed his immune system, ultimately leading him to contract tuberculosis, of which he died.
“The University of Ottawa is pleased to support Canada Research Chair Dr. Laurie Chan, whose cutting-edge toxicology and environmental health research helped solve one of Canada’s national mysteries,” said Mona Nemer, University of Ottawa Vice-President, Research.
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