Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Murder, mystery, and medicine

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 19 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6640
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

No doubt it is unusual for the founders of great institutions of learning to be deliberately poisoned to death with strychnine, let alone at the second attempt, but such seems to have been the fate in 1905 of the immensely rich Jane Stanford, the joint founder of Stanford University. First someone put strychnine in her mineral water in San Francisco, and then in her bicarbonate of soda in Honolulu, to which she had escaped to recover from the physical and emotional shock of having been poisoned.

The president of Stanford University at the time was a medical man, a keen eugenicist and ichthyologist, called David Starr Jordan, who was much …

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