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How did Garfield Die? [Part 5]

Posted on September 17, 2016


Friday: (Harper’s Magazine, Volume 25, 673)

On September 26, 1881, President Garfield’s body arrived in Cleveland, Ohio, (not far from his home in Mentor). The engraving above shows Garfield’s catafalque, solemnly escorted by honor guards and mourning citizens. Many felt they had lost more than a man; they had lost the promise of equity he represented. At the autopsy after Garfield’s death, people found that the bullet did not strike any major organs, arteries or veins. Today, historians of medicine generally agree that Garfield’s wound was not lethal, but caused by infection introduced, sadly, by his own physician. In the wake of the catastrophe, germ theory gained wider acceptance–and so, perhaps due to Garfield’s sad but high-profile case, more lives were later saved by antiseptic medicine. Garfield was permanently buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, and his monument still stands as a testament to this chapter of medical history–the transition to modern antiseptic!

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