San Francisco, California
London, United Kingdom
Written by award-winning medical journalist Sandra Hempel, the book "The Inheritor’s Powder: A Cautionary Tale of Poison, Betrayal and Greed" hinges on a murder case in Plumstead in the nineteenth century, but there is so much more in there, particularly the history of medicine and pharmacology. Sandra will be here to read from the book, give a short talk and answer any questions you may have. There will copies of the book to purchase, and wine is included in the price!
Further details below:
In the nineteenth century, criminal poisoning with arsenic was frighteningly easy. For a few pence and with few questions asked, it was possible to buy enough poison to kill off an entire family, hence arsenic’s popular name: the inheritor’s powder. Yet if poisoning was easy, it was a notoriously difficult crime to prove.
The sleepy village of Plumstead, 1833: In November that year, the death of a wealthy landowner became a case devoured by the national media; a tale of family rivalry and betrayal that would hold readers enthralled as they devoured every macabre detail. George Bodle was a wealthy landowner, with a contentious will, and numerous dependents. So when he fell violently ill, along with his wife and three other members of his household, suspicions were raised. Although cholera was rife at the time, their symptoms pointed to a much darker explanation. When the old man died, the local doctor alerted the magistrate to his suspicions then promptly sent samples off to the laboratory at Woolwich Arsenal for analysis. The chemist James Marsh tested the various samples for signs of poison.
The evidence mounted up and the Bodle case attracted so much attention not just because of the juicy details, but also because the fear of being poisoned was rife. It was this fear that led Marsh to develop a test that was to prove vital in the developing field of forensic toxicology.
The Inheritor’s Powder is social and criminal history at its best: the birth of the science of toxicology, the development of post mortem tests, the role of the new police force, the introduction of expert witnesses. Not to mention a host of colourful characters.
Sandra Hempel is a journalist and author who specialises in health and social issues. She has written for a wide variety of popular newspapers and magazines, including The Times, The Sunday Times and The Mail on Sunday, as well as specialist publications. Her first book The Medical Detective won the Medical Journalists’ Association Book Award and the British Medical Association Book Award for the public understanding of science.
When & Where
Pathology Museum (Queen Mary)
Pathology Museum WEBSITE
**Please bring ID to receive alcohol at events**
Refunds/exchanges for evening events may be offered at the discretion of the Pathology Museum only if requested 48 hours before ticket sales end. (This doesn't include cancelled events which are automatically refunded.) For Taxidermy and other weekend workshops it is ONE WEEK before.
Prior to the appointment of Carla Valentine as the current Technical Curator, the museum was in a state of disarray. As medical teaching changed, the need for the study of anatomy and pathology pots declined. Without funding the pots and the infrastructure of the building suffered and it wasn't until a couple of years ago that a donation was secured to renovate the collection. New ways to ensure the survival of the collection were also trialled, including conferences and events.
The Pathology Museum, a part of Queen Mary University of London, is a medical-humanities hub and venue for public engagement and education. Our events showcase research and the arts from our own institution as well as other universities, independant researchers and other museums. Our activities are in accordance with Human Tissue Authority recommendtions on Public Display of medical collections, and the University Museums Group guidance, and are sensitive to the dignity of the collection.
As it is part of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, the museum is based within St Bartholomews which is a teaching hospital. Therefore, follow the signs for the Robin Brook Centre and go through the open entrance indicated below. You'll find the museum on the 3rd floor: