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Source: Philadelphia Medical Journal
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Theory of the Poisoned Bullet”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: 28 September 1901
Volume number: 8
Issue number: 13
Pagination: 500

“The Theory of the Poisoned Bullet.” Philadelphia Medical Journal 28 Sept. 1901 v8n13: p. 500.
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McKinley assassination (poison bullet theory).
Named persons


The Theory of the Poisoned Bullet

     In a case of such absorbing interest as that of our late President, it is but natural that theories and counter theories should have been advanced. The state of mind of the profession is reflected by those who have waited patiently for the result of bacteriological and chemical examinations, and the larger number who have let their imaginations take full rein and have speculated as to the various probabilities. This speculation is not without profit. Every carefully advanced theory has something to be said in its behalf. Among the many phases discussed is the theory of the poisoned bullet. Before the untoward symptoms had appeared, the question was asked, could the assassin have poisoned the bullets, and if so, what might he have used; and what would have been the effects induced? In connection with a theory of this sort, it is well to remember that the usual causes are first to be considered as by far the most probable, and the less frequent causes are only to be sought when the first are excluded. The statement is made that the most thorough bacteriological and chemical examinations have proved that the bullets were not poisoned, and thus this theory may be permanently set aside. Had this been the 15th instead of the 20th century, the conviction would have been widespread that the missile of death had been anointed with some mystic poison of wondrous strength to aid in the deadly work. We have the advantage of being able to test a hypothesis of this sort and our credulity cannot be imposed upon. Toxicologists were interested in the possible poison which might have been used by the assassin. Various pure cultures of deadly organisms were mentioned. Some thought the accidental verdigris which had collected about the bullet, might have been the cause of the gangrenous condition. Curare, another poison, was suggested, and also snake-venom, but the clinical picture which the President’s case presented, lent no color to any of these theories, save that of the micro-organismal, and the chemical examination has caused this to be set aside.



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