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Breaking News: President Garfield Could Have Been Saved! – posted by Michael March 31, 2006

Posted by Michael in History.

After being shot, Garfield lingered for two and a half months while doctors speculated about the location of the bullet.   The whole nation agonized over the mystery of where the bullet was, and whether surgery could safely be undertaken. 

Alexander Graham Bell and Simon Newcomb invented a machine to find the bullet.  It worked perfectly on test subjects (veterans of the War of Northern Aggression with bullets embedded in their bodies), but not on Garfield.

 The problem?  Metal coil spring mattresses had recently been invented, and the White House had acquired one for Garfield.  The results were fatal:

HistoryBuff.com — Alexander Graham Bell and the Garfield Assassination
The White House was one of the few that had the coil spring mattresses at the time. Very few people had even heard of them. Thus, Bell's and Newcomb's invention was detecting metal — unfortunately they didn't realize that it was the coil springs. If they had moved him off the bed to the floor or table, their apparatus would have detected where the bullet was and likely, knowing this, the White House surgeons could have saved James Garfield's life!


1. michael - March 31, 2006


For this post, I tried the “Press It” link that you told me about, and it worked.

I also figured out which button on the toolbar does a blockquote.

Thanks again.

2. daveintexas - March 31, 2006

Yes. Bell’s device worked, just got thrown off by the springs.

The surgeons killed Garfield.

You can almost hear Dr. Leonard McCoy cursing their “neanderthol dark aged witch doctors”.

I hope someone is saying that about chemotherapy in 15 years.

3. michael - April 1, 2006


What was your bad experience with chemo?

Mine was my mom. She went through that when I was a teenager. Along with the radiation therapy, surgeries, etc.

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