On This Day in Medical History: April 14th, 1865
Dr. Charles Leale had to unexpectedly spring into action. Having been in attendance for a play at Ford’s Theater. During the performance there was a sudden bit of action about one of the theater boxes and Dr. Leale rushed there to discover that President Abraham Lincoln had been attacked.
Initially Dr. Leale thought the president was stabbed as one of the other members seated near him had an arm wound. Unfortunately, Dr. Leale and others at the president’s side discovered a bullet wound to the back of the head. A description of the scene detailed that Dr. Leale’s removal of clots–presumably located around the wound on the brain–would temporarily appear to improve Lincoln’s breathing but the president was apparently unresponsive and with dilated pupils. Based on those features and the injury it’s extremely unlikely that Lincoln would have survived even in the modern era of medicine but it’s hard to know for certain
Dr. Leale attended the president and was holding his hand as Lincoln died the following day in a house across the street from the theater.
Born in New York City on March 26th, 1842, Dr. Leale studied medicine starting at age 18 and eventually went on to serve as a medical cadet in the U.S. Army.
[Doctor with a mustache]