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Did writer Jane Austen die of arsenic poisoning?

Famed British writer Jane Austen may have died of cataracts developed due to arsenic poisoning, researchers at The British Library suggest. Austen, the author of novels such as 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Sense and Sensibility' mysteriously died at the early age of 41.

Did writer Jane Austen die of arsenic poisoning?
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London: Famed British writer Jane Austen may have died of cataracts developed due to arsenic poisoning, researchers at The British Library suggest. Austen, the author of novels such as 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Sense and Sensibility' mysteriously died at the early age of 41.

Austen has many documented complaints about her eyesight near her death in 1817. Poor eyesight is one of the side effects of prolonged exposure to arsenic. The British Library examined three pairs of spectacles, locked away in Austen's desk since her death.

Austen is known to have complained in letters about her "weak" eyes, said Sandra Tuppen, the lead curator for modern archives and manuscripts at the library. When the test results were shown to a London-based optometrist, Simon Barnard, he suggested that Austen gradually needed stronger glasses because of a "serious underlying health problem".

It is not known whether Austen actually had cataracts - she may have used the three sets of spectacles for different activities, 'The Telegraph' reported.

Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy and less flexible. Barnard said a likely cause would have been accidental poisoning from a heavy metal such as arsenic.

"Arsenic poisoning is now known to cause cataracts. Despite its toxicity, arsenic was commonly found in medicines in 19th-century England, as well as in some water supplies," Tuppen said.

From Zee News

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