Sunday, 4 April 2010

Forensic toxicology

Deborah Blum has written an entertaining book (The Poisoner's Handbook) on the development of forensic medicine at the newly created Office of Chief Medical Examiner, New York City - under the guiding steer of Dr Charles Norris - and of forensic toxicology during Prohibition in the 1920s.

Alexander Gettler, the toxicologist at Norris' right-hand, worked tirelessly to identify poisonous substances in cadavers at a time when the techniques necessary to do so were either non-existent or unreliable.

The 'Father of Toxicology' - Mathieu Joseph Bonaventure Orfila (1787–1853) - attempted to bring chemistry into forensic medicine as often as possible and, on the matter of the detection of arsenic at exhumation he argued that arsenic in the soil around graves could be drawn in to the body and be mistaken for poisoning.

Orfila-related resources available online include:

Additional resources regarding early forensic science pioneers, autopsy practice and forensic pathologists are available here. (

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