Robert B. Livingston

Robert B. Livingston

Robert B. Livingston was born in 1918. He studied at Stanford University and graduated in 1940 before obtaining his M. D. from Stanford Medical School. During the Second World War he served in the Pacific and took part in the invasion of Okinawa. In 1946 he began work at the Yale University School of Medicine.

In 1952 President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Livingston as the Scientific Director of the National Institute for Neurological Diseases. He also held the post under President John F. Kennedy. In 1964 Livingston later founded the first ever department of Neurosciences at UCSD.

In the 1970s, Livingston was instrumental in developing some of the first 3-D images of the human brain. Later he was awarded a major grant to develop a prototype computer system to map the brain in three dimensions in microscopic detail.

Livingston was active in several anti-nuclear weapons and peace organizations, including the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and in 1985 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Livingston, along with David Mantik, Charles Crenshaw, Ronald F. White and Jack White, contributed to Assassination Science (edited by James H. Fetzer).

Robert B. Livingston died in 2002.

Primary Sources

(1) Robert B. Livingston, letter to David Lifton (2nd May, 1992)

I learned from a former classmate of mine from Stanford who was then a reporter for the Sr. Louis Post-Dispatch, Richard Dudman, that he was one of the White House press group that accompanied the President to Dallas. Not getting much information from the Parkland Hospital, Dick went out to inspect the Lincoln limousine in which the President and Connolly and their wives had been riding. He thought he saw for certain, that there was a through-and-through hole in the upper left margin of the windshield He described the spaling-splintering of glass at the margins as though the missile had entered from in front of the vehicle. When he reached over to pass his pencil or pen through the hole to test its patency, an FBI or Secret Service man roughly drew him away and shooed him off, instructing him that he wasn't allowed to come so close to that vehicle.

If there were a through-and-through windshield penetration, in that location, according to Dick, it had to come from in front. According to him, it would have been impossible to hit the windshield in that location from the overhead angle from the School Book Depository nor would a through-and-through penetration have been likely to be caused by a ricocheting bullet bouncing up from the rear.

What is most relevant from my personal experience is that on that same evening before the President's body on Air Force One had arrived at Andrews AFB I telephoned the Bethesda Navy Hospital. I believe that the call was made before the plane arrived because I recollect that it was following that call that I watched Robert S McNamara (Bob McNamara, is a long-standing, since 1952, mountain-climbing and hiking companion of mine) receive the Kennedy entourage and the casket being lowered on a fork life from the rear of the Air Force One onto the field tarmac.

Inasmuch as I was Scientific Director of two of the institutes at the NIH - and both institutes were pertinent to the matter of the President's assassination and brain injury - the Navy Hospital operator and the Officer on Duty put me through to speak directly with Dr Humes who was waiting to perform the autopsy. After introductions, we began a pleasant conversation. He told me that he had not heard much about the reporting from Dallas and from the Parkland Hospital. I told him that the reason for my making such an importuning call was to stress that the Parkland Hospital physicians' examination of President Kennedy revealed what they reported to be a small wound in the neck, closely adjacent to and to the right of the trachea. I explained that I had knowledge from the literature on high-velocity wound ballistics research, in addition to considerable personal combat experience examining and repairing bullet and shrapnel wounds. I was confident that a small wound of that sort had to be a wound of entrance and that if it were a wound of exit, it would almost certainly be widely blown out, with cruciate or otherwise wide, tearing outward ruptures of the underlying tissues and skin.

I stressed to Dr. Humes how important it was that the autopsy pathologists carefully examine the President's neck to characterize that particular wound and to distinguish it from the neighbouring tracheotomy wound.

I went on to presume, further, that the neck wound would probably not have anything to do with the main cause of death-massive, disruptive, brain injury - because of the angle of bullet trajectory and the generally upright position of the President's body, sitting up in the limousine. Yet, I said, carefully, if that wound were confirmed as a wound of entry, it would prove beyond peradventure of doubt that that shot had been fired from in front-hence that if there were shots from behind, there had to have been more than one gunman. Just at that moment, there was an interruption in our conversation. Dr. Humes returned after a pause of a few seconds to say that "the FBI will not let me talk any further." I wished him good luck, and the conversation was ended. My wife can be good witness to that conversation because we shared our mutual distress over the terrible events, and she shared with me my considerations weighing the decision to call over to the Bethesda Navy Hospital. The call originated in the kitchen of our home on Burning Tree Road in Bethesda with her being present throughout. After the telephone call, I exclaimed to her my dismay over the abrupt termination of my conversation with Dr. Humes, through the intervention of the FBI. I wondered aloud why they would want to interfere with a discussion between physicians relative to the problem of how best to investigate and interpret the autopsy. Now, with knowledge of the apparently prompt and massive control of information that was imposed on assignment of responsibility for the assassination of President Kennedy, I can appreciate that the interruption may have been far more pointed than I had presumed at that time.

I conclude, therefore, on the basis of personal experience, that Dr. Humes did have his attention drawn to the specifics and significance of President Kennedy's neck wound prior to his beginning the autopsy. His testimony that he only learned about the neck wound on the day after completion of the autopsy, after he had communicated with Doctor Perry in Dallas by telephone, means that he either forgot what I told him (although he appeared to be interested and attentive at the time) or that the autopsy was already under explicit non-medical control.

That event, coupled with Dick Dudman's report to me around the same time, of what appeared to him to be a penetrating hole through the Lincoln windshield, seems to me to add two grains of confirming evidence to the conspiracy interpretation. Incidentally, sometime later, I learned that the Secret Service had ordered from the Ford Motor Company a number of identical Lincoln limousine windshields "for target practice". It seems to me that they might have wanted to learn how much protection could be expected from such a windshield. Alternatively, they might have wanted to produce an inside nick in a windshield, without through-and-through penetration, so that they could substitute that nicked windshield for the other one, if it were needed for corroborative evidence relating to the Warren Commission's investigative interpretation and thesis.

(2) Robert B. Livingston, letter to Maynard Parker, editor of Newsweek (10th September, 1993)

I was Scientific Director of the National Institute for Mental Health and (concurrently) of the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness, at the time of the assassination. These two institutes are obviously relevant to interpretations of brain damage sustained by the president.

On the basis of November 22, 1963, broadcasts from Parkland Hospital, I felt obliged to call Commander James Humes, at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, who was about to perform the autopsy. Our telephone conversation was completed before the body arrived at Andrews AFB. I called to retail media reports from Parkland Hospital that there was a small wound in the front of his neck, just to the right of the trachea.

Humes said he hadn't been paying attention to the news, but was receptive to what I had to tell him. We had a cordial conversation about this. Based on my knowledge of medical and experimental analyses of bullet wounding, and personal experiences caring for numerous bullet and shrapnel wounds throughout the battle of Okinawa, I told him that a small wound, as described, would have to be a wound of entry. When a bullet exits from flesh, it violently blows out a lot of tissue, usually making a conspicuous cruciate opening with tissue protruding. A wound of entry, however, just punctures as it penetrates. So I stressed the need for him to probe that wound to trace its course fully and to find the location of the bullet or fragments. I especially emphasized that such a wound had to be an entry wound. And since the president was facing forward the whole time, that meant that there had to be a conspiracy. As we talked about that, he interrupted the conversation momentarily. He came back on the line to say, "I'm sorry. Dr. Livingston, but the FBI won't let me talk any longer." Thus, the conversation ended.

Two important subsequent events are noteworthy: Commander Humes did not dissect that wound, and when asked why not, in the Warren Commission hearings, he said that he didn't know about the small wound in the neck until the following day when he had a conversation with Dr. Perry at Parkland Hospital.

A further issue concerns reports of the appearance of cerebellar tissue in the occipital wound. This was first reported "live" as observations by an orderly, and by a nurse, both of whom were in the surgery where attempts to resuscitate the president were conducted prior to his death. I didn't give any credibility to those stories and dismissed them from my focus at the time, attributing what I thought must be mistaken identification of cerebellum to a likely lack of familiarity with neuroanatomy by two non-medically trained individuals. It would be easy to assume cerebellum in looking at macerated cerebral tissue protruding from a bloody wound. But since then, around six reputable physicians who saw the president at that time have testified that cerebellum was extruding from the wound at the back of his head. That is an important clue, indicating that something must have burst into the posterior fossa with sufficient force to uproot the cerebellum and blow a substantial hole through the heavy, covering, well-anchored, tentorium, which separates cerebellum from the main chamber of the skull.