Blood & Ivy: The 1849 Murder That Scandalized Harvard

Norton. Jul. 2018. 368p. photos. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393245165. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393245158. CRIME
Cambridge, MA, and Harvard University in the 1800s were fascinating places. Harvard itself was full of dichotomies: an influential university that paid its professors a pittance, a world-renowned medical school with an embarrassing connection to grave robbing. Guggenheim Fellow Collins (English, Portland State Univ.; The Murder of the Century) writes how this all came into focus when wealthy landowner Dr. George Parkman disappeared while on his regular collection rounds. Harvard chemistry professor John White Webster claimed to have seen Parkman on his way, yet an examination of his laboratory brought to light a grisly assortment of human remains—but were they Parkman's? This spellbinding murder case was not only notorious in its day but also led to two important innovations in jurisprudence: the first case of dental records testimony convicting a murderer and the "Webster charge," a legal definition of "reasonable doubt" given to the jury by Judge Lemuel Shaw, which became the standard for more than a century.
VERDICT This page-turning popular history of the life and crimes of a Harvard professor in the 1840s will be appreciated by fans of true crime and the history of criminal law.
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