While few early photographs exist of the Harvard Medical School building on North Grove Street, considerable information about the structure and its interior can be found, ironically, in the published transcripts of the 1850 murder trial of John W. Webster (1793-1850). Dr. George Parkman, a noted Boston physician and Harvard benefactor, disappeared on November 23, 1849, and a subsequent search of the premises of the Medical School revealed parts of a human body—including artificial teeth—in the laboratory of Dr. John W. Webster, Harvard’s Erving Professor of Chemistry. Webster was convicted of the murder of Parkman and executed on August 30, 1850.
This trial transcript with drawings of the facility give some idea of the small size of Harvard Medical School at this time. The plan of Dr. Webster’s laboratory shows the locations of the tea-chest, furnace, and privy where the remains of George Parkman were discovered.