A Book of Remarkable Criminals HTML version
noticed how very nice and white the doctor's teeth appeared to be. It was the
discovery of the remains of these same admirable teeth three years later in the
furnace in Professor Webster's lower laboratory that led to the conviction of Dr.
Parkman's murderer. By a strange coincidence the doctor met his death in the
very college which his generosity had helped to build. Though to-day the state of
the college has declined from the medical to the dental, his memory still lives
within its walls by the cast of his jaws preserved in the dental museum as a relic
of a case, in which the art of dentistry did signal service to the cause of justice.
In his lifetime Dr. Parkman was a well-known figure in the streets of Boston. His
peculiar personal appearance and eccentric habits combined to make him
something of a character. As he walked through the streets he presented a
remarkable appearance. He was exceptionally tall, longer in the body than the
legs; his lower jaw protruded some half an inch beyond the upper; he carried his
body bent forward from the small of his back. He seemed to be always in a hurry;
so impetuous was he that, if his horse did not travel fast enough to please him,
he would get off its back, and, leaving the steed in the middle of the street,
hasten on his way on foot. A just and generous man, he was extremely
punctilious in matters of business, and uncompromising in his resentment of any
form of falsehood or deceit. It was the force of his resentment in such a case that
cost him his life.
The doctor was unfailingly punctual in taking his meals. Dr. Kingsley, during the
fourteen years he had acted as his agent, had always been able to make sure of
finding him at home at his dinner hour, half-past two o'clock. But on Friday,
November 23, 1849, to his surprise and that of his family, Dr. Parkman did not
come home to dinner; and their anxiety was increased when the day passed, and
there was still no sign of the doctor's return. Inquiries were made. From these it
appeared that Dr. Parkman had been last seen alive between one and two
o'clock on the Friday afternoon. About half-past one he had visited a grocer's
shop in Bridge Street, made some purchases, and left behind him a paper bag
containing a lettuce, which, he said, he would call for on his way home. Shortly
before two o'clock he was seen by a workman, at a distance of forty or fifty feet
from the Medical College, going in that direction. From that moment all certain
trace of him was lost. His family knew that he had made an appointment for half-
past one that day, but where and with whom they did not know. As a matter of
fact, Professor John W. Webster had appointed that hour to receive Dr. Parkman
in his lecture-room in the Medical College.
John W. Webster was at this time Professor of Chemistry and Mineralogy in
Harvard University, a Doctor of Medicine and a Member of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences, the London Geological Society and the St.
Petersburg Mineralogical Society. He was the author of several works on geology
and chemistry, a man now close on sixty years of age. His countenance was
genial, his manner mild and unassuming; he was clean shaven, wore spectacles,
and looked younger than his years.