History Of Forensic Medicine
HISTORY OF FORENSIC MEDICINE The true origin of medical jurisprudence is of comparatively recent date, although traces of its principles may be perceived in remote times. Among the ancient Greeks the principles of medical science appear only to have been applied to legislation in certain questions relating to legitimacy. In the writings of Galen we find, however, remarks on the differences between the foetal and the adult lungs; he also treats of the legitimacy of seven months' children, and discusses feigned diseases. Turning to Rome, we find that the laws of the Twelve Tables fix three hundred days as the extreme duration of utero-gestation. It is doubtful whether the Roman law authorized medical inspections of dead bodies. In the code of Justinian we find De statu hominum; De poenis el manumissis; De sicariis; De inspiciendo venire cuslodiendoque partu; De muliere quae peperil undecimo mense; De impotentia; De hermaphroditis titles which show obvious traces of a recognized connexion between medicine and law. It was not, however, by the testimony of living medical witnesses that such questions were to be settled, but on the authority of Hippocrates.
Medical jurisprudence, as a science, dates only from the 16th century. In 1507 the bishop of Bamberg introduced a penal code in which the necessity of medical evidence in certain cases was recognized; and in 1532 the emperor Charles V. persuaded the Diet of Ratisbon to adopt a uniform code of German penal jurisprudence, in which the civil magistrate was enjoined in all cases of doubt or difficulty to obtain the evidence of medical witnesses, as in cases of personal injuries, infanticide, pretended pregnancy, simulated diseases, and poisoning. The true dawn of forensic medicine dates, however, from the publication in T 553 f the Constitulio criminalis Carolina in Germany. A few years later Weiher, a physician, having undertaken to prove that witches and demoniacs are, in fact, persons subject to hypochondriasis and hysteria, and should not be punished, aroused popular indignation, and was with difficulty rescued from the flames by his patron, William duke of Cleves.
At the close of the 16th century Ambrose Pare wrote on monsters, on simulated diseases, and on the art of drawing up medico-legal reports; Pineau also published his treatise on virginity and defloration. About the same time as these stimuli to the study of forensic medicine were being made known in Paris, the first systematic treatise on the science appeared in Sicily in the form of a treatise De relalionibus medicorum by Fidele. Paulo Zacchia, the illustrious Roman medical jurist, moreover, published from 1621 to 1635 a work entitled Quaestiones medico-legales, which marks a new era in the history of the science a work which displays an immense amount of learning and sagacity in an age when chemistry was in its infancy, and physiology very imperfectly understood. The discovery of the circulation of the blood by Harvey soon followed, and gave a new impetus to the study of those branches of forensic medicine having direct relations to physiology; and to Harvey we owe the idea how to apply Galen's observations on the differences between the foetal and the adult lungs to the elucidation of cases of supposed infanticide. About this time, too, Sebiz published two treatises, on the signs of virginity and on the examination of wounds respectively. In the former he contended that the hymen was the real mark of virginity; but this was denied by Augenio and Gassendi. In 1663 Thomas Bartholin investigated the period of human uterine gestation, a subject which had engaged the attention of Aristotle. He also proposed the " hydrostatic test " for the determination of live-birth a test still in use, and applied by observing whether the lungs of an infant float or sink in water. J. Swammerdam explained the rationale of the process in 1677; but it was not till 1682 that it was first practically applied by Jan Schreyer.
Germany, ever the leader in questions of forensic medicine, introduced the first public lectures on medical jurisprudence. Michaelis gave the first course about the middle of the 17th century in the university of Leipzig; and these were followed by the lectures of Bohn, who also published De renunciatione oulnerum; cui accesserunl dissertationes binae de partu enecato, et an quis vims mortuusve aquis submersus, strangulatus, out oulneratus fuerit, and De officiis medici duplicis, clinici et forensis. Welsch and Amman wrote on the fatality of wounds, and Licetus on monsters.
From the time of Ambrose Par6 the mode of conducting investigations in forensic medicine had attracted attention in France; and in 1603 Henry IV. authorized his physician to appoint persons skilled in medicine and surgery to make medico-legal inspections and reports in all cities and royal jurisdictions; in 1692, difficulties having arisen, Louis XIV. created hereditary royal physicians and surgeons for the performance of like duties. These, having become a corrupt and venal body, were suppressed in 1790. The only works on forensic medicine which appeared in France during the 17th century, however, were Gendry's Sur les moyens de bien rapporter a justice and Blegny's Doctrine des rapports en chirurgie. At the beginning of the 18th century the latter was superseded as a text-book by Devaux's L'Arl de faire des rapports en chirurgie. Valentini followed with two works, which were finally incorporated in his Corpus juris medicolegale which appeared in 1722. This work is a vast storehouse of medico-legal information, and a summary of the knowledge of the time.
Professorships for teaching the subject were founded in the German universities early in the 18th century, and numerous treatises on forensic medicine were published. Teichmeyer's Institutions medicinae legalis long formed the text-book of the subject; and Alberti, professor of legal medicine at Halle, in his Systema gave to the world a most complete and laborious treatise on the science. His industrious collection of facts renders his works a precious mine of information. Indeed towards the close of the 18th century the Germans were almost the only cultivators of legal medicine. But in France the celebrated case of Villeblanche attracted attention to the subject, and called forth Louis, who in a memoir on utero-gestation attacked with powerful arguments the pretended instances of protracted pregnancy, and paved the way for the adoption in the Code Napoleon of MEDICI (FAMILY)
three hundred days as the limit of utero-gestation, a period in precise accordance with the ancient Roman law of the Twelve Tables. Louis also wrote on death from hanging, and pointed out the mode by which we may distinguish murder from suicide under such circumstances. It is he who is credited with having been the first in France to publicly teach the just application of medical knowledge to jurisprudence. Fodere's celebrated Traiti de medecine legale appeared in 1798, and marks a new era in the annals of legal medicine.
No British author wrote systematically on forensic medicine till 1788, when Dr Samuel Farr published a short treatise on the Elements of Medical Jurisprudence; but this was merely an abridgment of an earlier work of Fazelius. Previous writers as Mead, Munro, Denman, Percival and the two Hunters had, however, dealt with fragments of the subject; nevertheless the science as a whole was little appreciated or recognized in this country during the 18th century.
In the 1pth century France took the lead; and the institution of three professorships of forensic medicine at the end of the 18th century produced excellent fruits. In 1814 Orfila, a Spaniard by birth, but naturalized in France, published his Toxicologie, a work which revolutionized this branch of medical jurisprudence, and first placed the knowledge of poisons upon a scientific basis. Since the time of Orfila, France has never ceased to have one or more living medical jurists, among the most recent of whom we must enumerate Tardieu, whose treatises on abortion, on poisons, on wounds, etc., are justly celebrated. Germany too industriously pursued the subject, and Casper's great work on forensic medicine will ever remain a classic in the science. In Russia Dragendorff greatly contributed to our knowledge of poisons.
Though forensic medicine may be said to have been entirely neglected in England till the beginning of the 19th century, its progress has since been by no means slow or unimportant; and the subject now forms a recognized and obligatory portion of medical study. The first lectures delivered in Great Britain were given in the university of Edinburgh in 1801 by the elder Dr Duncan; and the first professorship was held t by his son in '1803. Dr Alfred Swaine Taylor gave the first course of lectures delivered in England, at Guy's Hospital in 1831; and in 1863 the university of London made forensic medicine a separate subject for examination and honours for medical graduates. In 1822 there was not in the English language any treatise of authority either on medical jurisprudence or on any important division of the subject ; for it was not till the following year that the useful compendium of Paris and Fonblanque was published; and even in the middle of the 19th century medical jurisprudence may be said to have been almost in its infancy as compared with what it is now. From 1829 Great Britain produced an abundant crop of literature on forensic medicine. Sir Robert Christison's admirable treatise on Toxicology, Dr A. S. Taylor's Principles and Practice of Medical Jurisprudence (1905 edition, by F. J. Smith), the same author's Elements of Medical Jurisprudence, Dr Guy's Forensic Medicine, and Ogston's Lectures on Medical Jurisprudence have become well-known and widely circulated works. The separate memoirs of Taylor, Christison, Guy and others are also storehouses of facts and deductions in the science. America, too, has not been behindhand in the race. F. Wharton and M. Still6's Manual, Wormley's Toxicology, and the works of Beck and Reese have furthered the study of the science.
See also Dixon Mann, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology (London, 1902) ; Wynter Blyth, Poisons: their Effects and Detection (London, 1895) ; Allbutt and Rolleston, A System of Medicine, vol. ii. " Intoxications " (London, 1909); Vaughan, Twentieth Century Practice of Medicine, vol. xiii. article " Ptomaines, Toxins and Leucomaines " (London, 1898); Maschka, Handbuch der gerichtlichen Medicin (Tubingen, 1881-1882); Hofmann, Lehrbuch der gerichtlichen Medicin (Wien, 1898); Strassmann, Lehrbuch der gerichtlichen Medicin (Stuttgart, 1895); Kunkel, Handbuch der Toxikologie (Jena, 1899); Brouardel, L Infanticide, La Pendaison, etc. (Paris, 1897). (H. H. L.;T. A. I.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)