Famous Scientists of Toxicology

Toxicology is the scientific discipline that deals with the study of poisons or toxic substances and their effects on living organisms. It is a broad field that encloses the application of biology, chemistry, pharmacology, and medicine to study a particular poison and its effects on living beings, especially humans.

It is a wide discipline that is being used in many fields such as environmental, clinical, economic, biochemical, regulatory, industrial, genetic, preventive, behavioral, toxinology, wildlife, and forensic toxicology.

Forensic toxicology is the discipline that deals with the medicolegal aspect of poison, types of poison, symptoms, and their possible treatment. Section 328 of IPC provides punishment for causing hurt by means of poison or any stupefying, intoxicating or unwholesome drug or other things with the intent to commit an offense (i.e., anything when used in an unwholesome state/composition can act as a poison).

Famous Scientists Contributing to Toxicology

Toxicology came into existence with early cave dwellers who recognized poisonous plants and animals and used their extracts for hunting or in warfare. 

The Ebers Papyrus is the document that contains information pertaining to many recognized poisons, including hemlock (the state poison of the Greeks), aconite (Chinese arrow poison), opium (used as both poison and an antidote), and metals such as arsenic lead, copper, and antimony. This was discovered in 1500 BC. It is the oldest document having information about poisons. 

  1. Hippocrates:- In 400 BC, he added a number of poisons and clinical toxicology principles pertaining to bioavailability in therapy and overdosage, while the Book of Job speaks of poison arrows.
  2. Theophrastus:- A student of Aristotle, in 300 BC included numerous references to poisonous plants in De Historia Plantarum.
  3. Dioscorides:- A Greek physician in the court of the Roman emperor Nero, made the first attempt at the classification of poisons, which was accompanied by descriptions and drawings. 
  4. Paracelsus:- Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (1493–1541), is considered the father of classical toxicology who gave the definition for poison. According to him, “All substances are poisons. There is none that is not poison. The right dose differentiates a poison from a remedy”. Paracelsus was a Swiss/German physician and alchemist best known for articulating the concept of “The dose makes the poison,” and is considered today to be the bedrock of toxicology.
  5. Mathieu Joseph Bonaventure Orfila (1787–1853):- he is also known as the father of modern toxicology as well as the father of forensic toxicology. He was a Spanish physician in the French court, who used autopsy material and chemical analysis systematically as legal proof of poisoning. Orfila published the first major work devoted expressly to the toxicity of natural agents in his Traité des poisons, also called Toxicologie générale (1814–1815). His introduction of this detailed type of analysis survives as the underpinning of forensic toxicology (1818). 
  6. François Magendie (1783–1885):- A physician and experimental physiologist, studied the mechanisms of action of emetine, strychnine, and “arrow poisons”.  His research into the absorption and distribution of these compounds in the body remains a classic in toxicology and pharmacology. Today the concept of ADME in toxicology is based on Magendie’s theory.
  7. Claude Bernard (1813–1878):- He was a student of Magendie who continued the study of arrow poisons in the 1950s. He also worked on the mechanism of action of carbon monoxide. Bernard’s treatise, Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine which was translated by Greene and Schuman in 1949, is a classic in the development of toxicology.
  8. Oswald Schmiedeberg (1838–1921):- A German scientist whose research was focused on the synthesis of hippuric acid in the liver and the detoxification mechanisms of the liver in several animal species. 
  9. Louis Lewin (1850–1929):- He was a German scientist who contributed to the study of chronic toxicity of narcotics and other alkaloids remains a classic work in toxicology. Lewin also published much of the early work on the toxicity of methanol, glycerol, acrolein, and chloroform.
  10. Dr. Arnold J. Lehman (1900-1979):- He was the pioneer in introducing toxicology in the United States. His adage “You too can be a toxicologist” is as important a summation of toxicology as the often-quoted statement of Paracelsus, “The dose makes the poison”. Lehman along with Fitzhugh, and their co-workers formalized the experimental program for the appraisal of food, drug, and cosmetic safety in 1955, updated by the US FDA in 1982, and the Gordon Research Conferences established a conference on toxicology and safety evaluation, with Bernard L. Oser, who was the initial chairman of the conference. This led to close relationships among toxicologists from several groups and brought toxicology into a new phase.
  11. Jean Servais Stas (1813-1891):- He was the first person to successfully isolate plant poisons from human tissue in 1850. He is also credited for identifying nicotine as a poisonous substance.

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