Could digging up a general in a lead-lined coffin save the world?

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Many people live extraordinary lives. Many have extraordinary deaths. But very, very few can hope to save the world 90 years after they have passed away.

One such man was the remarkably colourful Sir Tatton Benvenuto Mark Sykes, one of those larger-than-life Victorians who lived in an era when great men really could, and did, change the shape of the world....

His commanding achievement in life was when, aged just 39, he skilfully directed the carve-up of the defunct Ottoman Empire after the World War I armistice in 1918 - representing the British government at the Paris Peace Conference....

But it was his death that was to bring Sir Mark what may be his longest-lived legacy.

In an extraordinary development, it is now thought that this eccentric genius may hold the key - 88 years after he died - to averting what many scientists believe is the biggest medical threat facing the world today: a bird-flu pandemic.

During the Paris peace talks, which led to the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Sir Mark contracted a nasty fever, from which he died, at the Hotel Lotti in Paris, on February 16, 1919.

In fact, Sir Mark may have been one of the very last victims of the terrible epidemic which had swept the world for more than two years, the so-called Spanish Flu. This pandemic killed far more than were slaughtered in the Great War....

But thanks to his leadlined coffin, scientists believe that there is a good chance Sir Mark's body will have been extremely well-preserved.

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