Medicine: Un-haystacking a Needle

No less a patient than President James A. Garfield was once the subject in a surgical problem still alive this week: how to find the exact location of a foreign body in the human frame by electrical means.

Shot on July 2, 1881, Garfield died 78 days later, because his doctors, headed by his boyhood friend, Dr. D. W. Bliss, could not locate the assassin's bullet in his abdomen. By using an electromagnet, Telephonist Alexander Graham Bell had figured out the general location of the bullet (see cut), but no operation was performed. A...

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