Mathieu Joseph Bonaventure Orfila
|Born||24 April 1787
Kingdom of Spain
|Died||12 March 1853 (aged 65)
|Fields||Toxicology and chemistry|
|Alma mater||University of Valencia
University of Barcelona
|Known for||Founded toxicology|
|Influences||Louis Nicolas Vauquelin|
Mathieu Joseph Bonaventure Orfila (Catalan: Mateu Josep Bonaventura Orfila i Rotger) (24 April 1787 – 12 March 1853) was a Spanish-born French toxicologist and chemist, the founder of the science of toxicology.
Role in Forensic Toxicology
If there is reason to believe that a murder or attempted murder may have been committed using poison, a forensic toxicologist is often brought in to examine pieces of evidence such as corpses and food items for poison content. In Orfila's time the primary type of poison in use was arsenic, but there were no reliable ways of testing for its presence. Orfila created new techniques and refined existing techniques in his first treatise, Traité des poisons, greatly enhancing their accuracy.
In 1840, Marie LaFarge was tried for the murder of her husband using arsenic. Mysteriously, although arsenic was available to the killer and was found in the food, none could be found in the body. Orfila was asked by the court to investigate. He discovered that the test used, the Marsh Test, had been performed incorrectly, and that there was in fact arsenic in the body, allowing LaFarge to be found guilty.
- J. R. Bertomeu-Sánchez, A. Nieto-Galan (2006). Chemistry, medicine and crime: Mateu J B Orfila (1787–1853) and his times. Sagamore Beach, MA: Science History Publications. p. 311. ISBN 0-88135-275-6.
- Forensic Toxicology, how it solves cases and the major cases it solved
- Bibliothèque Interuniversitaire de Médecine de Paris: Books, biography and studies on Orfila
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press