The Death of Marat, 1793
This famous painting shows the death of the radical politician of the French Revolution, Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793). Suffering from a chronic skin disease, perhaps dermatitis herpetiformis, he was soaking himself in a medicinal bath when stabbed to death by Charlotte Corday. He may have contracted the disease while hiding in the sewers for safety.
It is not widely known that Jean-Paul Marat was a physician. He studied medicine in Paris, and though never formally graduating, set himself in practice in England, where he published papers on diseases of the eye and on curing gonorrhea, and obtained an honorary medical degree. Returning to Paris in 1776 he established a successful medical practice and became the physician of the brother of King Louis XVI. He carried out scientific research, but eventually became involved entirely in politics. He became one of the most radical leaders of the Revolution and was murdered on July 13 of 1793 by Charlotte Corday, a young aristocrat who at her trial testified, “I killed one man to save 100,000.”
GEORGE DUNEA, MD, Editor-in-Chief