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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 15, 2007

Oct. 23 lecture focuses on milk sickness and Abraham Lincoln

The public is invited to a University of Iowa History of Medicine talk on "Poisoning on the Prairie: Abraham Lincoln, Nancy Hanks Lincoln and Milk Sickness" at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, in Room 401 of the UI Hardin Library for the Health Sciences.

The speaker will be Edmund A. Franken, Jr., professor emeritus of diagnostic radiology at the UI Carver College of Medicine.

Light refreshments will be served. The lecture is part of a series of presentations sponsored by the UI History of Medicine Society.

Franken will discuss the epidemic of milk sickness that swept the wilderness of southern Indiana shortly after 7-year-old Abraham Lincoln and his family moved to the area. The disease was responsible for the death of Lincoln's mother and several relatives.

While pioneers presumed correctly that milk sickness was due to a poison, the medical community pursued other causes and inhibited the development of knowledge to prevent the disease. The puzzle was not completely solved until the 20th century.

Franken will also discuss young Abe Lincoln and the role that the social environment of the area played in his development.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Ed Holtum at 319-335-9154 or

For directions to Hardin Library and information on parking, visit

For more information about the UI History of Medicine Society lecture series, visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACTS: Edwin Holtum, UI History of Medicine Society, 319-335-9154; Becky Soglin, UI Health Science Relations, 319-335-6660,