Poisonings, both accidental and criminal, have been happening for centuries. But the science of investigating those deaths is barely a hundred years old.
As she began to research the history of forensic medicine in Jazz Age New York, science writer Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook, says she was struck by the number and variety of toxic substances that were being used.
Many of those historic toxics are no longer in wide use, but that doesn’t mean we are any less vulnerable to poisons now, Blum (left) says. In fact, the chemistry of modern-day poisons is more complex than 90 years ago.
Forensic examinations and laboratory analyses have become central to a growing list of popular network television dramas. But Blum has no complaints about them.