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Dittrick Museum’s “Presidents, Public Health and Pre-antiseptic Medicine”

Before the 1870s, doctors couldn’t agree about what caused disease and accidentally introduced infection. President James A. Garfield’s death provides one tragic example.

After Charles Guiteau shot the president, doctors prodded the wound with unsterilized hands and instruments, introducing sepsis. Even Guiteau claimed that, while he shot the president, the doctors killed him.

Garfield’s tomb stands in Cleveland’s Lakeview Cemetery, a testament to the perils of pre-antiseptic surgery. But at the same time, the president’s terrible sacrifice brought media attention to the antiseptic debate.

The Dittrick Museum of Medical History’s Conversation Series will continue with a discussion titled “Presidents, Public Health, and Pre-antiseptic Medicine.”

The event will be held Thursday, Sept. 15, at 6 p.m. in the Allen Memorial Medical Library’s Powell Reading Room.

The discussion will be led by:

  • Eric Rivet, Western Reserve Historical Society’s curator of collections and exhibits; and
  • Scott Frank, director, of the Master of Public Health program at CWRU and director of the Shaker Heights Health Department.

Register and learn more about the event at