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A Finger in Lincoln's Brain

What Modern Science Reveals about Lincoln, His Assassination, and Its Aftermath

by E. Lawrence Abel


A hitherto unrecognized disease tipped an unstable John Wilkes Booth over the edge.

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Cover image for A Finger in Lincoln's Brain

January 2015


Pages 269
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics American History/Law and Crime
  Crime/Crimes and Investigation

This intriguing book examines Lincoln's assassination from a behavioral and medical sciences perspective, providing new insights into everything from ballistics and forensics to the medical intervention to save his life, the autopsy results, his compromised embalming, and the final odyssey of his bodily remains.

In this book, E. Lawrence Abel sheds much-needed light on the fascinating details surrounding the death of Abraham Lincoln, including John Wilkes Booth's illness that turned him into an assassin, the medical treatment the president is alleged to have received after he was shot, and the significance of his funeral for the American public. The author provides an in-depth analysis of the science behind the assassination, a discussion of the medical care Lincoln received at the time he was shot and the treatment he would have received if he were shot today, and the impact of his death on his contemporaries and the American public.

The book examines Lincoln's fatalism and his unbridled ambition in terms of empirical psychological science rather than the fanciful psychoanalytical explanations that often characterize Lincoln psychohistories. The medical chapters challenge the long-standing description of Lincoln's last hours and examine the debate about whether Lincoln's doctors inadvertently doomed him.


  • Challenges the long-standing account of Lincoln's last hours and examines the debate about whether his doctor prolonged or shortened his life
  • Sheds light on the crime with an in-depth analysis of ballistics and detailed forensics information
  • Features a new interpretation of why Booth shot Lincoln
Author Info

E. Lawrence Abel, PhD, is distinguished faculty professor of psychology and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Wayne State University. He is past president of the Behavioral Teratology Society and former director of the Mott Center for Human Growth and Development at Wayne. His published works include Singing the New Nation; Confederate Sheet Music; Marihuana, The First Twelve Thousand Years; and more than 200 articles in scientific journals. Abel holds a doctorate in psychology from the University of Toronto and a post-doctoral fellowship from the School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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Foreign Affairs and the Founding Fathers cover imageAnti-Communism in Twentieth-Century America cover imageA New World to Be Won cover image

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