What Really Killed William Henry Harrison?tags: William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States, holds a distinction that with luck will never be equaled: He was our shortest-serving president, dying on April 4, 1841, after just a month in office.
What killed him? Historians have long accepted the diagnosis of Harrison’s doctor, Thomas Miller: “pneumonia of the lower lobe of the right lung, complicated by congestion of the liver.”
The pneumonia was thought to be a direct result of a cold the 68-year-old Harrison caught while delivering a numbingly long Inaugural Address (at 8,445 words, the longest in history) in wet, freezing weather without a hat, overcoat or gloves.
But a new look at the evidence through the lens of modern epidemiology makes it far more likely that the real killer lurked elsewhere — in a fetid marsh not far from the White House.
The first clue that the pneumonia diagnosis was wrong lies in Miller’s own apparent uneasiness with it. “The disease,” he wrote, “was not viewed as a case of pure pneumonia; but as this was the most palpable affection, the term pneumonia afforded a succinct and intelligible answer to the innumerable questions as to the nature of the attack.”
comments powered by Disqus
- Memorial for black Revolutionary War soldiers finds spot on Mall after 30 years
- Sherlock Holmes star to feature in a new movie about Alan Turning
- Man’s Genome From 45,000 Years Ago Is Reconstructed
- This company claims its video games about the French Revolution are accurate
- Origins of sex discovered
- Columbia historian Eric Foner is giving his lectures to the public -- and to posterity — through a free MOOC.
- Black studies professor in the middle of exploding scandal at the University of North Carolina
- 2 conservative groups are leading the fight against the new AP standards
- The secret of successful history departments
- AHA president suggests older historians should consider making way for younger historians