A Case Study: Was Private William Braine of the 1845 Franklin Expedition a Victim of Tuberculosis? + Supplementary Appendix 1 (See Article Tools)

  • Jannine Forst
  • Terence A. Brown
Keywords: archaeology, DNA, Franklin expedition, Northwest Passage, paleogenetics, tuberculosis, William Braine


The Franklin expedition set sail in 1845 in search of the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic. During the first winter in the Arctic, three crewmen died of unknown causes. In the 1980s, Dr. Owen Beattie and his colleagues conducted autopsies, which indicated that all three may have suffered from tuberculosis at the time of death. In the present study, a bone sample from one of these individuals, Private William Braine, was analyzed for ancient DNA belonging to Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tests based on both the polymerase chain reaction and next-generation sequencing were carried out. The results show that it is unlikely that tuberculosis contributed directly to his death.