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April 3, 1972

Brahma, Parkman and WebsterMurder in Medical Boston

JAMA. 1972;220(1):70-74. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200010056009

In the late 1840s, the Western world was torn by cataclysmic events which have influenced all subsequent history. But there was one enclave of peace—Boston and its satellites, Cambridge and Concord. The population of Boston itself was 130,000. There were 100,000 natives, principally of English descent, and 30,000 newly arrived immigrants from Ireland.

The special character of Boston derived from its domination by the Brahmins, an upper class descended from original settlers of Massachusetts, who had been people of good education dedicated to cultural pursuits. The control of the city was thus in the hands of a relatively small group whose members combined integrity with intellectual attainments. They also had wealth. To be a Brahmin, both money and intellect were essential; there was also a certain smugness. When and how the upper class of Boston acquired the name Brahmin is not known for certain. One possibility is that it comes