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Mateu Josep Bonaventura Orfila i Rotger (1787-1853) was a well-known figure in European medical circles in the nineteenth century. His active participation in famous poisoning trials meant that his name echoed far beyond the boundaries of the academic community, and even appeared in novels, plays, films, and popular biographies. Orfila combined his forensic research and laboratory work with his teaching chair in the Faculty of Medicine. He wrote several influential textbooks that were regularly updated, reprinted, and translated into many European languages during the first half of nineteenth century. He was also a prominent figure at the Paris Academy of Medicine and dean of the Paris Faculty of Medicine between 1831 and 1848.
The papers in this volume grew from contribution to the international meeting Chemistry, Medicine and Crime: Mateu Orfila and his times held in Mahon, Minorca in March 2004. Examining Orfila’s multifaceted career, the authors shed light on many characteristics of nineteenth-century medical chemistry, toxicology, and forensic medicine. Considering France, Britain, Germany, and other European countries in which Orfila’s theories and experiments were discussed and appropriated, this volume examines a broad range of issues: the reform of medical studies; teaching practices and textbooks; controversies surrounding medical chemistry and toxicology; the new experimental culture of organic chemistry; techniques of animal experimentation; the presentation of scientific evidence in courtrooms; and the role of forensic medicine and medical experts in criminal investigations. As a result, the book makes clear that chemistry, medicine, and toxicology cannot be historically understood as fixed and independent disciplines, and that Orfila’s contributions has a profound impact on the relationships between these areas throughout the nineteenth century.
Chemistry, Medicine and Crime is published by Watson Publishing International and is printed with the support of the Esteve Foundation, that obtains no profit on sales.