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Lincoln and Medicine

Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein

Publication Year: 2012

The life of America’s sixteenth president has continued to fascinate the public since his tragic death. Now, Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein unveils an engaging volume on the medical history of the Lincoln family. Lincoln and Medicine, the first work on the subject in nearly eighty years, investigates the most enduring controversies about Lincoln’s mental health, physical history, and assassination; the conditions that afflicted his wife and children, both before and after his death; and Lincoln’s relationship with the medical field during the Civil War, both as commander-in-chief and on a personal level.
Since his assassination in 1865, Lincoln has been diagnosed with no less than seventeen conditions by doctors, historians, and researchers, including congestive heart failure, epilepsy, Marfan syndrome, and mercury poisoning. Schroeder-Lein offers objective scrutiny of the numerous speculations and medical mysteries that continue to be associated with the president’s physical and mental health, from the recent interest in testing Lincoln’s DNA and theories that he was homosexual, to analysis of the deep depressions, accidents, and illnesses that plagued his early years. Set within the broader context of the prevailing medical knowledge and remedies of the era, Lincoln and Medicine takes into account new perspectives on the medical history of Abraham Lincoln and his family, offering an absorbing and informative view into a much-mythologized, yet underinvestigated, dimension of one of the nation’s most famous leaders.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Book Title

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pp. vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi

Abraham Lincoln have Marfan syndrome? Was Mary insane? What did Willie die from? Many questions have been asked about the health of Lincoln and his family members. While there have been a number of articles addressing various aspects of the health of the Lincolns, there has...

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1. Young Lincoln, 1809–42

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pp. 1-8

As most people know, Abraham Lincoln was born near Hodgenville, Kentucky, on February 12, 1809, the second child of Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. Abraham had an older sister, Sarah, and a younger brother, Thomas, who died in infancy. The family moved to a farm on Knob Creek...

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2. The Lincoln Family, 1843–60

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pp. 9-16

When Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd on November 4, 1842, he took on new responsibilities for family members, as do most married men. In Lincoln’s case, his relationship with his wife has been studied extensively, if not excessively, from their first meeting to their last words to each other on...

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3. The Lincoln Family in Washington, DC, 1861–65

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pp. 17-36

On February 11, 1861, a chilly, drizzly morning in Springfield, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln spoke poignant words of farewell to his friends and boarded the train for a lengthy trip to Washington, DC. In order to allow many people across the North to see their new president-elect, Lincoln’s route was not the most direct and included brief stops at many small towns, as well...

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4. Lincoln and the Medical Bandwagon

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pp. 37-55

In the late 1960s, when the author’s younger sister was diagnosed with a congenital heart arrhythmia, one of the first things that the doctor told the family was that Winston Churchill had also suffered from this problem. Evidently, many believe that it comforts a patient to know that others have lived famously productive lives while suffering from the same physical condition. This seems to be especially true when Abraham...

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5. Lincoln and Medical Matters during the Civil War

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pp. 56-73

When Abraham Lincoln assumed the presidency on March 4, 1861, he had little experience with medical issues beyond family illnesses and several legal cases that involved alleged medical malpractice or questions of sanity.1 Once he became president, Lincoln, in his role as commander in chief, had overall responsibility for the military, including its medical arm. Practically, however, the secretary of war and the secretary...

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6. The Assassination of Lincoln

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pp. 74-79

The theater had been a means of relaxation and escape for Abraham Lincoln throughout the Civil War. When he and Mary went to see the silly play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre one April evening, they did not expect anything different. Tragically, the night of April 14, 1865, was very different...

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7. Lincoln’s Family after the War

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pp. 80-92

As Abraham Lincoln lay dying in the back bedroom of the Peterson house on the night of April 14–15, 1865, Mary frequently came in to see her husband. At one point, as she was sitting on a chair next to the bed, Lincoln’s “breathing became very stertorous and the loud, unnatural noise frightened her...


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pp. 93-110


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pp. 111-120


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pp. 121-128

Author Biography

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pp. 129

The Concise Lincoln Library Series

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pp. 130

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780809331956
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809331949

Publication Year: 2012