Mathieu Joseph Bonaventure Orfila

Mathieu Joseph Bonaventure Orfila

Poison was a fascinating way to kill people though the history. Emperors and kings had tasters to avoid eat poisoned food; reigns were destroyed thanks to different poisons. If you had an enemy and wanted to eliminated him, you just need to choose the right one. Poison was a very efficient way to kill people without leave traces. Until Mathieu Joseph Bonaventure Orfila appears.

The Spanish-born French toxicologist and chemist Mathieu Orfila (1787–1853) is the founder of the science of toxicology. Thanks to him and his primordial studies, we know much more today about poisons, their effects and how to reverse the damaged of some of them.

Orfila worked to make chemical analysis a routine part of forensic medicine, and made studies of asphyxiation, the decomposition of bodies, and exhumation. He helped to develop tests for the presence of blood in a forensic context and is credited as one of the first people to use a microscope to assess blood and semen stains. He also worked to improve public health systems and medical training.

Traité de Médecine Légale

He wrote the first medical treatise devoted solely to the subject of toxicology in 1813: Traité des poisons. Tirés des règnes mineral, végétal et animal or Toxicologie générale. The Crime library explain the importance of the book:

In it, he summed up everything known about poisons at the time and offered classifications. He had tried to demonstrate the various tests for poison detection and had found them to be highly unreliable. Assuming that toxicology was not yet a real science but could become one, he refined Rose’s method to achieve greater testing accuracy. It was Orfila who showed with tests on animals that after ingestion, arsenic gets distributed throughout the body. His fame won him a prominent position at Paris University, where he started to consult on criminal cases.

And to finish this post, a very nice list of The Best: Deadly Poisons, Ingested or Inhaled – ten powerful substances, from Botulinum (Botulinum toxin) to Compound 1080 (Sodium fluoroacetate).

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