Thursday, April 29, 2010

Exhuming Taylor

As most of you probably know, Zachary Taylor was exhumed in 1991 to see if he had been poisoned with arsenic. The results were that no, he hadn't been, but it is interesting that they got permission to exhume any president!
After a week of extensive testing of tissues taken from Taylor's body, Dr. Greathouse and Dr. Nichols said the findings were conclusive. "It's not borderline," Dr. Nichols said. "He was not poisoned." Some Traces of Arsenic Found

Tests conducted here and at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge,Tenn., did discover traces of the common heavy metal in hair, bone and dried fleshy tissues from Taylor's remains that were taken from his crypt on June 17.

The arsenic levels,though, appear to be naturally occurring and far too low to be considered lethal, Dr. Nichols said at a news conference in the Jefferson County Courthouse.

He said levels of arsenic found in Taylor's remains would have had to be 200 to thousands of times greater than it was in order for the heavy metal to have killed him on July 9, 1850, at the age of 65.

For the body to be exhumed, permission had to come from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Taylor's body was only out of his crypt for about 5 hours. As to the samples that were used in the tests, what happens to them is up to the family.

The question of Taylor's death was raised by a woman working on a book:
For months Clara Rising, a novelist and former humanities professor, had raised a theory that Taylor had been assassinated, poisoned with arsenic. She presented her suspicions to Dr. Greathouse, who said her request to remove Taylor's remains was "reasonable."

...Despite the Medical Examiner's findings, Dr. Rising said the investigation into Taylor's death had been worth the effort.

For months, she had maintained that pro-slavery factions troubled by Taylor's attempts to containslavery could have given his political foes with a powerful motive to assassinate him.

While most historians have accepted Taylor's death as natural, Dr. Rising said the suddenness of his illness was suspicious for a man whose health was widely known to have been robust. With secessionist fervor reaching a breaking point in 1850, pro-slavery factions desperately wanted to silence Taylor, a Southerner who opposed the extension of slavery and who wanted to bring California and New Mexico into the Union as free states.

1 comment:

Shelley said...

Exhuming always seems a bit ghoulish to me, although the President of my interest, Roosevelt, has had quite a bit written about possible health problems at his time of death.