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MURDER BY LAMPLIGHT’s Medical Women: Who’s Real?

DR. Elizabeth Blackwell is mentioned in MURDER BY LAMPLIGHT as the first woman admitted to Britain’s medical register. But in the 1860s, she practiced medicine in New York, not London. Like my fictional Dr. Julia Lewis, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson finds a backdoor onto the medical list, appearing on the register in 1865. And like Julia, Garrett Anderson opened a clinic in the East End, performing heroic work during the cholera outbreak of 1866.


Florence Nightingale, Britain’s celebrated 19th-century nurse and medical reformer, makes an off-page cameo appearance, providing important evidence about one of the killer’s victims. Nightingale prepared the tables and diagrams in the groundbreaking 1858 medical report, MORTALITY OF THE BRITISH ARMY. It demonstrated that poor sanitation, not wounds, caused most deaths during the Crimean War. Still, Julia is correct when she tells Inspector Richard Tennant, “She’s not right all the time, you know.” In the 1860s, Florence Nightingale held firmly to the “miasma” theory of cholera’s spread. Indeed, she never changed her mind, believing that air, not water, spread the disease.

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