Yesterday’s News: Summer 1955

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by Diana Grier Ayton

In the summer 1955 edition of the McGill News, a feature article entitled “Crime Doctor” focused on the career of Charles P. Larson, MDCM’36, who had become a star forensic pathologist in the U.S. He’d begun making a name for himself within a few years of graduating from McGill when he solved a murder by matching brain tissue from the female victim to spots found on her boyfriend’s clothing. The case marked the first time that an American court had accepted human brain tissue as evidence in a homicide trial.

Larson’s CSI skills became legendary, especially after he figured out who had killed a woman whose body had been in a lake for almost 10 years. The fishermen who discovered the body thought it was a store mannequin because the cold water and lack of bacteria in the lake had turned the corpse into a soap-like substance. Detective work by Larson traced a piece of rope tied to the body back to the victim’s husband and he was convicted.

By the time of the McGill News story, Larson had been the go-to pathologist in some 250 baffling homicides across the country “and even in Alaska” which had not yet become a state. He helped convict killers, but he had been known “to pull a rabbit out of a hat for the defence, too” and prove the innocence of some very grateful citizens.


(From left to right) Charles P. Larson MDCM '08; Charles P. Larson MDCM '71; Charles P. Larson MDCM '58; Charles P. Larson MDCM '36

The article concluded by noting that Dr. Larson’s oldest son, Charles P. Larson, was studying medicine at McGill. He went on to graduate in 1958. His younger brother, also Charles P., followed his sibling’s path and earned his MDCM in 1971. And in 2008, the latest family member to graduate in medicine received his McGill degree. His name? What else – Charles P. Larson.

The News reported on a couple of grads and their exploits in the world of show business. Reuben Ship, BA’39, who “discovered his rare talent for depicting the lighter side of life” as a contributor of “hilarious sketches” to the Red and White Revues, went on to write scripts for Victory Loan radio shows during the war. He then moved to Hollywood where he wrote for The Life of Riley and The Jackie Gleason Show.

Another student who found his muse while working on Red and White Revues in addition to serving as President of the McGill Radio Workshop, was William Shatner, BCom’52. The recent grad was beginning to get work on CBC and at Stratford, appearing in the upcoming season’s productions of Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice.

The Redpath Library announced that it had begun offering poetry on records, starting chronologically with Beowulf “read in an early West Saxon type of pronunciation.” The library had recorded W.H. Auden reading some of his poetry during a visit to McGill and looked forward “to the prospect of Canadian poets reading their verse into recording machines on the campus.” Oddly, the existing collection of 120 French and English records included one of W.C. Fields giving a temperance lecture, “although no one is quite sure how he got there.”


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