Blood & Ivy

Blood & Ivy

The 1849 Murder That Scandalized Harvard

Book - 2018
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"On November 23rd of 1849, in the heart of Boston, one of the city's richest men simply vanished. Dr. George Parkman, a Brahmin who owned much of Boston's West End, was last seen that afternoon visiting his alma mater, Harvard Medical School. Police scoured city tenements and the harbor, and offered hefty rewards as leads put the elusive Dr. Parkman at sea or hiding in Manhattan. But one Harvard janitor held a much darker suspicion: that their ruthless benefactor had never even left the Medical School building alive. His shocking discoveries in a chemistry professor's laboratory engulfed America in one of its most infamous trials: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. John White Webster. A baffling case of red herrings, grave robbery, and dismemberment--of Harvard's greatest doctors investigating one of their own, for a murder hidden in a building full of cadavers--it became a landmark case in the use of medical forensics and the meaning of reasonable doubt. Paul Collins brings nineteenth-century Boston back to life in vivid detail, weaving together newspaper accounts, letters, journals, court transcripts, and memoirs from this case.
Publisher: New York :, W.W. Norton & Company,, [2018]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780393245165
Branch Call Number: 364.1523 COL
Characteristics: xix, 347 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: Blood and ivy


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Nov 11, 2018

I was completely unfamiliar with the events narrated in this book and I confess that I borrowed it because the title intrigued me. Well, I am not really going to describe the events in many details, because I don't want to spoil the story for those who - like me - don't know it. Let's just say that it's about a famous murder case and the social, economic and political environment in which it happened (Boston, Cambridge and Harvard, around 1850). What the different newspapers and protagonists had to say reveals a lot about themselves, of course, and the culture of the time. I found it fascinating also that Dickens was inspired by the events described in the book to write The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It is a modern book not only for the definition of "reasonable doubt" given here, but also for the controversy about the death penalty.

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