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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Is Death Contagious?

From the Maine Farmer of Oct. 30, 1841:

A Singular Death — Mr Henry Coolidge of Framingham, a very worthy young man, died on Saturday last, in consequence, as his physicians suppose, of poison communicated to his blood by a razor with which he shaved himself soon after he had shaved the face of his deceased father.

The father was a patriot of the revolution, a pensioner, and advanced beyond the age of eighty, and in shaving the face of the corpse the razor drew a little blood. The son, without wiping the razor, made use of it to shave his own face, on which he also drew blood, and he made use of the same lather and brush which he had used on the corpse. Soon after his face became much swollen and he gradually grew worse for about two days, being much of that time in great torture, till he died.

It is certainly possible, and it seems probable, that a particle of the putrid matter from the face of the corpse was communicated to the blood of the living, and that it operated with as much malignity as the virus by which the small pox is propagated. — [copied from] Mass. Ploughman

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