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J Forensic Sci. 2016 Mar;61(2):540-544. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.12971. Epub 2015 Oct 29.

John Paul Jones: An Overlooked Autopsy Finding that May Explain His Terminal Illness.

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Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, College of Medicine, University of Vermont, 11976 Route 128, Westford, VT, 05494.


A finding in the autopsy of John Paul Jones, the American Revolutionary War naval hero, may explain his terminal illness. During his last 2 years, he had a persistent productive cough and dyspnea. Ten days before death, he developed rapidly progressive dependent edema and ascites. He died in France in 1792. His body, preserved in alcohol in a lead coffin, was, in 1905, removed to the United States. Glomerulonephritis was noted on an autopsy, performed in France, but there was no comment then or since about ventricular wall thickness being the same in both ventricles at 5-6 mm. Hypertrophy and dilatation with biventricular failure followed by tissue shrinkage during 113 years in alcohol could have resulted in these ventricular wall findings. Systemic hypertension and left ventricular failure are consistent with his respiratory symptoms complicated perhaps by pulmonary emboli, right ventricular failure with tricuspid regurgitation, peripheral congestion, and jaundice.


American Revolutionary War history; John Paul Jones; U.S. Navy history; autopsy; forensic science; history of forensic science

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