Late 18th Century Onward

Beginning in the latter part of the 18th century, several books and treatises were published in English concerning forensic medicine and medical jurisprudence. What is remarkable is that the issues addressed by many of the authors would not be out of place in a contemporary setting. It seems odd that many of these principles are restated today as though they are new.

In 1783, William Hunter (9) published an essay entitled, On the Uncertainty of the Signs of Murder in the Case of Bastard Children; this may be the first true forensic medicine publication from England. The first larger work was published in 1788 by Samuel Farr. John Gordon Smith writes in 1821 in the preface to his own book (10): "The earliest production in this country, professing to treat of Medical Jurisprudence generaliter, was an abstract from a foreign work, comprised in a very small space. It bears the name of 'Dr. Farr's Elements,' and first appeared above thirty years ago." In fact, it was translated from the 1767 publication Elemental Medicinae Forensis by Fazelius of Geneva. Davis (11) refers to these and to Remarks on Medical Jurisprudence by William Dease of Dublin, as well as the Treatise on Forensic Medicine or Medical Jurisprudence by O. W. Bartley of Bristol. Davis considers the latter two works of poor quality, stating that the: "First original and satisfactory work" was George Male's Epitome of Juridical or Forensic Medicine, published in 1816 (second edition, 1821). Male was a physician at Birmingham General Hospital and is often considered the father of English medical jurisprudence. Smith refers also to Male's book but also comments: "To which if I may add a Treatise on Medical Police, by John Roberton, MD."

Texts on forensic medicine began to appear more rapidly and with much broader content. John Gordon Smith (9) stated in The Principles of Forensic Medicine Systematically Arranged and Applied to British Practice (1821) that: "Forensic Medicine—Legal, Judiciary or Juridical Medicine—and Medical Jurisprudence are synonymous terms." Having referred in the preface to the earlier books, he notes, "It is but justice to mention that the American schools have outstripped us in attention to Forensic Medicine;" he may have been referring to the work of Theodric Romeyn Beck and others. Beck published the first American textbook 2 years later in 1823 and a third edition (London) had been published by 1829 (8). Before this, in 1804, J. A. Stringham, who was trained in Edinburgh and awarded an MD in 1799, was appointed as a Professor in Medical Jurisprudence at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York and given a Chair in 1813 (11).

John Gordon Smith (9) wrote that "Every medical practitioner being liable to a subpoena, should make it his business to know the relations of physiological and pathological principles to the facts on which he is likely to be interrogated, and likewise the principal judiciary bearings of the case. The former of these are to be found in works on Forensic Medicine; the latter in those on Jurisprudence." Alfred Taylor (12) in his A Manual of Medical Juris-

Table 2

Chapter Contents of Guy's 1884 Text, Principles of Forensic Medicine1

1. Medical evidence

2. Personal identity Identity

Age Sex

3. Impotence Rape

Pregnancy Delivery

4. Foeticide or criminal abortion Infanticide


5. Life assurance Feigned diseases

6. Unsoundness of mind

7. Persons found dead Real & apparent death Sudden dath Survivorship

8. Death by drowning Death by hanging Death by strangulation Death by suffocation Wounds Death by fire Spontaneous combustion Death by lightning Death from cold Death from starvation Toxicology Specific poisons

a Adapted from ref. 16.

prudence defined medical jurisprudence as: "That science, which teaches the application of every branch of medical knowledge to the purpose of the law"

There was a clear demand for such books, and Traill's (2) Outlines of a Course of Lectures on Medical Jurisprudence, published in 1840 when Traill was Regius Professor of Jurisprudence and Medical Police at Edinburgh, was the second edition of a book initially published in 1834 (13). The first Chair of Forensic Medicine had been established in the United Kingdom in Edinburgh in 1803—the appointee being Andrew Duncan, Jr. [although Andrew Duncan Sr. had lectured there on forensic medicine topics since 1789 (14)]. Subsequent nonprofessorial academic forensic medicine posts were established at Guy's Hospital and Charing Cross Hospital, London. In 1839 and 1875, respectively, academic chairs of medical jurisprudence were created in Glasgow and Aberdeen (15).

The relevant areas of interest to forensic medicine and medical jurisprudence were gradually becoming better defined. Table 2 summarizes the chapter contents of Principles of Forensic Medicine by William Guy (16), Professor of Forensic Medicine at King's College, London, in 1844. Much of this material is relevant to forensic physicians and forensic pathologists working today.

Thus, by the end of the 19th century, a framework of forensic medicine that persists today had been established in Europe, the United Kingdom, America, and related jurisdictions.

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