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Fringe Physics and the Higgs Boson, Part II of the Holiday Serial

Many old Native American myths, have a coyote character.  Coyote is a trickster and is often intertwined throughout the story influencing events in unexpected and sometimes apparently meaningless ways.  This story’s coyote is Agnew Hunter Bahnson Jr.  References to him, his relatives and his associates turn up in a number of places.  Go to the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art and you’ll be treated to this larger than life painting of one of Agnew’s namesake, Dr. David Hayes Agnew.

Although Agnew won’t come into the story until the 1950s, today’s installment takes us all the way back to the end of the Civil War.  Henry T. Bahnson found himself on the losing side and in need of an elbow excision.  There’s an old story among Freemasons that a Union general touring a hospital of wounded with the chief physician noticed the doctor sending a number of confederate soldiers for immediate care.  When he asked the doctor why he was prioritizing these men, his reply was “They’re my brother masons”.  Whether or not Henry Bahnson received excellent care at the hands of Philadelphia doctors because of his brother’s status as a Freemason may never be known, but his brother Charles Frederic Bahnson would ultimately become the Assistant Grand Lecturer for the Grand Lodge of North Carolina and author the North Carolina Lodge Manual.

The elbow excision was performed by Dr. David Hayes Agnew, and his assistant Dr. Charles T. Hunter. In addition to saving Henry’s elbow, Dr. Hayes was the attending surgeon for President Garfield after he had been shot by an assassin.  Henry, a medical doctor himself recovered but never regained complete use of his right elbow.  He named his son Agnew Hunter Bahnson after his two attending doctors.  Agnew carried on the tradition and named his son Agnew Hunter Bahnson Jr.  It is the younger Agnew that we’ll be concerned with in our story.

One more medical footnote to the history of Agnew Hunter Bahnson Jr…  Another of Henry’s grandsons, Agnew’s cousin, the second Henry Theodore Bahnson wound up in possession of his grandfather’s excised elbow bone.  More importantly though, he was the first doctor to successfully perform a heart and liver transplant.  Henry studied under Dr. Alfred Blalock who was featured in the movie about Vivien Thomas, the African-American surgical technician who developed life saving procedures for treating blue baby syndrome.  Dr. Blalock and Henry are pictured together in a medical journal early in Henry’s career, and if you look behind Dr. Blalock, in the background, there’s Agnew.


Dr. Agnew on Wikipeida


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