1. La seule présence… de extravasations sanguines disséminées… suffit pour démontrer… que la suffication est bien, en réalité la cause de la morte.

    -Ambroise Tardieu, 1855 (The full citation of the paper in which he made this assertion is: Tardieu A. Ann Hyg Pub et de med Legale (series II) 1855;(6):371-82. This paper is quoted in the paper “Petechial Hemorrhages - A review of Pathogenesis” by Frederick A. Jaffe. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 15(3):203-207, 1994)

  2. Petechiae arise at the capillary level.

    -Frederick A. Jaffe, Forensic Pathology Branch, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (in his paper entitled “Petechial Hemorrhages - A review of Pathogenesis”. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 15(3):203-207, 1994. This quote appears on page 204, column 2, top line)

  3. A common error is to attribute the petechiae to the rupture of capillaries, whereas they actually emanate from small venules - capillary bleeding would be invisible to the naked eye.

    -Bernard Knight (Forensic Pathology, 2nd Edition, 1996, page 348)

    (N.B. Note the contradiction between quotes 2 and 3 - both from contemporary books and journals. This is another important forensic controversy that is far from over. For other similar forensic controversies, see quotes on "Forensic Mythology" and "Hydrostatic Test". Interestingly, Bernard Knight, writing under the pseudonym of Bernard Picton in his book "Murder, Suicide or Accident - The Forensic Pathologist at Work", (Robert Hale & Company, London, 1971), has this to say on page 102: "The lining of the smallest blood vessels - the capillaries - is very sensitive to both increased pressure and oxygen lack. When these become deranged, the capillaries become fragile and burst at many points, causing small haemorrhages into the tissues, called 'petechiae'."
    One would tend to believe that while Knight changed his view between 1971 and 1996, others stuck to the traditional view.)


  1. Sometimes life is like an autopsy - gutted & emptied. An autopsy reveals the cause of death; whereas, being gutted & emptied can reveal a new beginning in life.

    -Found as an attachment to the E-mail received from e. catherine on Fri, 22 Sep 2000


  1. Physical evidence can not be intimidated. It does not forget. It sits there and waits to be detected, preserved, evaluated, and explained.

    -Herbert Leon Macdonell (Quoted at the opening page in his book “The Evidence never lies”)

  2. Physical evidence does not get excited, like people do.

    -Herbert Leon Macdonell (Quoted at the opening page in his book “The Evidence never lies”)

  3. Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves even unconsciously, will serve as silent witness against him. Not only his fingerprints or his footprints, but his hair, the fibers from his clothes, the glass he breaks, the tool marks he leaves, the paint he scratches, the blood or semen he deposits or collects - all of these and more bear mute witness against him. This is evidence that does not forget. It is not confused by the excitement of the moment. It is not absent because human witnesses are. It cannot perjure itself. It cannot be wholly absent. Only its interpretation can err. Only human failure to find it, study and understand it, can diminish its value.

    -Crime Investigation, second edition, Paul L. Kirk (deceased), edited by John I. Thornton (1974), p. 2. (Quoted also in “Footwear Impression Evidence” by William J. Bodziak, at page 1)

  4. In the course of a trial, defense and prosecuting attorneys may lie, witnesses may lie, the defendant may certainly lie. Even the judge may lie. Only the evidence never lies!

    -Herbert Leon Macdonell (Quoted at the opening page in his book “The Evidence never lies”)

  5. Absence of Evidence is not the same as Evidence of Absence.

    -Howard Frumkin, M.D. Emory University School of Public Health, Chairmain, Dept: of Environmental & Occupational Health (Quoted in Jornal of Forensic Sciences, March 2000 at page 510)


  1. Poison is any substance, which introduced into the system, either directly or by absorption, produces violent, morbid or fatal changes, or which destroys living tissue with which it comes in contact.

    -Watkins v. National Elec. Products Corp., C.C.A. Pa., 165, F. 2d 980, 982

  2. Poison: Any substance which, when relatively small amounts are ingested, inhaled, or absorbed, or applied to, injected to, or developed within the body, has chemical action that may cause damage to structure or disturbance of function producing symptomology, illness or death.

    -Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, 26th Edition, Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore MD, 1995

  3. Poison: Any substance which, when ingested, inhaled or absorbed, or when applied to, injected into, or developed within the body, in relatively small amounts, by its chemical action may cause damage to structure or disturbance of function.

    -The Sloane-Dorland Annotated Medical-Legal Dictionary, West Publishing Company, New York, NY, 1987

  4. Poison is any substance in relatively small quantities that can cause death or illness in living organisms by chemical action. The qualification “by chemical action”, is necessary because it rules out such effects as those produced by a small quantity of lead entering the body at high velocity.

    -Scientific American

    (N. B. It may be interesting to note that the usual fatal dose of a lead salt such as lead acetate is considered to be about 20 g. A lead bullet weighing 20 g can also kill a person, but in that case, the death would not be by chemical action, and thus lead in the second case, would not be supposed to kill as a poison!)


  1. All substances are poisons. There is none, which is not. The right dose differentiates a poison and a remedy.

    -Paracelsus (1495-1541), Swiss physician and Chemist

    (N. B. There are several versions of this quote, which differ. This is understandable as this quote has been translated in English from a different language. The real quote in the original language is given in “Handbook of Pesticide Toxicology, Vol. 1 (Principles), page xxvii, 2nd Edition, Edited by Robert I. Krieger, (Academic Press, 2001)”. The quote -in German- goes like this, “Alle Ding sind Gift und nichts ohn Gift; alein die Dosis macht das ein Ding kein Gift ist”. Krieger in his Foreword goes on to say, “With the exception of E=mc2, perhaps no other single statement has wielded such force in establishing the popular notoriety and the professional stature of an individual in the history of science as the words just quoted”. This in itself appears a very fine quote to me!).

    Other similar quotes attributed to him are

    • What is there that is not poison. All things are poison and nothing (is) without poison. Solely the dose determines that a thing is not a poison.)

  2. Even nectar is poison if taken in excess.

    -Hindu Proverb (Quoted in “Encyclopedia of Clinical Toxicology” by Irving S. Rossoff, 2002, “The Parthenon Publishing Group”, a CRC Press Company, page vi)

  3. Give me a decent bottle of poison and I’ll construct the perfect Crime.

    -Agatha Christie (Quoted in “Dame Agatha’s poisonous pharmacopoeia”. The Pharmaceutical Journal. Dec 23 & 30, 1978, Page 573)

  4. Alcohol, Hashish, Prussic acid, strychnine are all weak dilutions; the surest poison is time.

    -Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882): American poet, essayist, philosopher

  5. The gnat that sings his summer song
    Poison gets from slander's tongue,
    The poison of the snake and newt
    Is the seat of envy's foot.
    The poison of the honey bee
    Is the artist's jealousy.

    -Blake, (Auguries of Innocence)

  6. There is no such thing as a safe drug - only safe doses.

    -C. Pippenger

  7. There are no safe drugs, only safe ways of using them.

    -Voltaire (quoted in “Introduction to Toxicology” 2nd Edition by J. A. Timbrell, 1995, Taylor & Francis Ltd, at page 61)

  8. The dose is the difference between the victim and the patient.

    -M. Gerald

  9. Plants are the most overrated poisons of childhood.

    -N.C. Fraser in “ Accidental poisoning deaths in British children 1958-77”. Br Med J 1980; 280: 1595-1598 (In a survey of deaths due to accidental poisoning in British children, out of 598 registered deaths over 20 years, Fraser found that only three were attributable to the ingestion of plant poisons!)

  10. Having sniffed the dead man’s lips, I detected a slightly sour smell, and I came to the conclusion that he had poison forced upon him.

    -Sherlock Holmes, in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet” (Quoted in “Hard Evidence” By David Fisher at page 23)

  11. Poisons and medicines are oftentimes the same substance given with different intents.

    -Peter Mere Latham

  12. Passion (poison) often makes fools of clever men; sometimes even makes clever men of fools.

    -La Rochefoucauld

  13. I maintain that though you would often in the fifteenth century have heard the snobbish Roman say, in a would-be-off-hand tone, “I am dining with the Borgias tonight”, no Roman was ever able to say, “I dined last night with the Borgias.”

    -“And Even Now”, Max Beerbohm

  14. When you consider what a chance women have to poison their husbands, it’s a wonder there isn’t more of it done.

    -Kim Hubbard

  15. Most signs and symptoms associated with natural disease can be produced by some poison, and practically every sign and symptom observed in poisoning can be mimicked by those associated with natural diseases.

    -L. Adelson

  16. Poison is a chemical bomb.

    -John Harris Trestrail III, on page 30 of his book “Criminal Poisoning”, Humana Press, 2000

  17. If you poison us, do we not die?

    -The Merchant of Venice. III.i.69 (quoted on the front page in “Curare -Its history and usage” by K. Bryn Thomas, Pitman Medical Publishing Co. Ltd. London, 1964. I found this book while leisurely scanning the S.M.S. Medical College library at Jaipur on 14 June 2001, when I had gone there as a post-graduate examiner)

  18. Poison is a silent weapon.

    -John Harris Trestrail III, on page 31 of his book “Criminal Poisoning”, Humana Press, 2000

  19. Revolted by the odious crime of homicide, the chemist’s aim is to perfect the means of establishing proof of poisoning so that the heinous crime will be brought to light and proved to the magistrate who must punish the criminal.

    -“Traite de Poison”, M.J.B. Orfila (1814)

  20. MARTHA: “Well, dear, for a gallon of elderberry wine, I take one teaspoonful of arsenic, and add a half a teaspoonful of strychnine, and then just a pinch of cyanide.

    -“Arsenic and Old Lace” by Joseph Kasserling, New York Pocket Books, New York, NY, 1944 (quoted by John Harris Trestrail III in his book “Criminal Poisoning” on page 93. Also by Serita Deborah Stevens and Anne Klarner in their book “Deadly Doses - A writer’s guide to poisons”, Writer’s Digest Books, Ohio, 1990 on page 10)

  21. If all those buried in our cemeteries who were poisoned could raise their hand, we would probably be shocked by the numbers!

    -John Harris Trestrail III, in this book “Criminal Poisoning” on page 99

  22. And yonder soft phial, the exquisite blue
    Sure to taste sweetly - is that poison too?

    -R. Browning (Cited in "Recent Advances in Forensic Pathology" edited by Francis E. Camps, J.& A. Churchill Ltd., 1969, on page 191, in Chapter 11 entitled "Forensic Chemistry")

  23. It would be nice if someday, like Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy, we could pass a “Tricorder” over the body in question and thereby scan for over a million different chemical entities.

    -John Harris Trestrail III, in this book “Criminal Poisoning” on page 71, stressing the fact that when an analytical result for toxicology comes negative, it does not necessarily mean that the specimen was free of all chemical substances. It only means that none of the substances tested for were present in detectable quantities.

  24. Every death with no visible signs of trauma must be considered a poisoning until the facts prove otherwise.

    -John Harris Trestrail III, in this book “Criminal Poisoning” on page 99

  25. Doctors put drugs of which they know little, into our bodies of which they know less, to cure diseases of which they know nothing at all.

    -Voltaire (quoted in “Introduction to Toxicology” 2nd Edition by J. A. Timbrell, 1995, Taylor & Francis Ltd, at page 61)



  1. APAP - induced heart injury? May be yes, may be no. Next question?

    -Title of a paper by Martin J. Smilkstein in Clinical Toxicology, 34(2), 155-156 (1996)

  2. I have just taken Tylenol, will I die?

    -A frantic call made by several Americans in September - October 1982 to poison centres, following unfortunate deaths of 7 people, who took Tylenol Capsules, which all turned out to be laced with cyanide. Such a panic spread among the Americans that many reported that their toothpaste smelt oddly or their antacids tasted strangely. Many pharmacists described this reaction as “Tylenol Syndrome”. (Taken from “Dunea G. Death over the Counter. British Medical Journal, Vol, 286, 15 January 1983, pages 211-212”. This incident is also reported in “Forensic Pharmacology - Medicines, Mayhem, and Malpractice” by R.E. Ferner, Oxford University Press, 1996, at page 15)


  1. Arsenic was a popular homicidal poison; women purchased it with the ostensible excuse of destroying rats. The rat in this context was usually the husband!


  2. The history of arsenic poisoning is, at the same time, the history of murder by means of poisoning.

    -Leschke (quoted in “The Power of Poison” by John Glaister, Chritopher Johnson, London, 1954, page 78)


  1. Aconite is useful to hunters for destroying tigers and elephants, useful to the rich for putting troublesome relatives out of the way, and useful to jealous husbands for destroying faithless wives.

    -saying common among Lepchas of Sikkim, India


  1. Now she's acquitted, she should tell us in the interests of science how she did it!

    -Sir James Piaget, a distinguished Victorian surgeon, exhorting Adelaide Bartlett, when she was acquitted, to tell how she killed her husband by giving him chloroform (quoted in "Murder - What dunit" by J.H.H. Gaute & Robin Odell, at page 93)


  1. Datura makes you hot as a hare, blind as a bat, dry as a bone, red as a beet and mad as a hen.

    -H.G. Morton

  2. And some of them ate plentifully of it, the effect of which was a very pleasant Comedy; for they turned natural Fools upon it for several Days. One would blow a Feather in the Air; another would dart straws at it with much fury; and another stark naked was sitting up in a Corner, like a Monkey grinning and making Mows at them; a Fourth would fondly kiss and paw his Companions, and sneer in their Faces with a Countenance more antik than any in a Dutch Droll.

    -Robert Beverly, describing the condition of some soldiers who accidentally ate Datura stramonium (Jimson weed) leaves in their salad. This description appears in the book “History and Present State of Virginia”, Book 2 (1705 A.D.), p 24

    (N.B. This is one of the most widely quoted quotes on Datura stramonium by medical and lay authorities alike. It has appeared in (i) JAMA 1939; 112:2500-2 in a paper by JD Hughes and JA Clark Jr. (ii) Editorial, Lancet 1948;i:649-50 (iii) Clinical Toxicology by CJ Polson, MA Green, MR Lee, 3rd Edition, page 393 (iv)The Medical Detectives by Berton Roueché, Washington Square Press 1980, page 184)


  1. I hate Bosco,
    It's full of DDT.
    Mommy put it in my milk to try to poison me.
    But I fooled Mommy, I put some in her tea.
    Now there's no more Mommy to try to poison me.

    -Children's rhyme (Quoted in "The New England Journal of Medicine" Volume 330:1095, April 14, 1994, Number 15, (in the Review of the book "The Poisonous Pen of Agatha Christie" By Michael C. Gerald. 275 pp. Austin, Tex., University of Texas Press, 1993. $32.50. ISBN 0-292-76535-5). Review by Orah S. Platt, M.D. and Richard Platt, M.D.,Children's Hospital Medical Center, Boston, MA 02215. Available on the net at


  1. Besides, hellebore is rank poison to us, but given to goats and quails makes them fat.

    -Lucretius: “De Rerum Natura” Book 4, lines 640-641, Translated by W.H.D. Rouse (This quote appears in “Handbook of Pesticide Toxicology, Vol. 1 (Principles), page 109, 2nd Edition, Edited by Robert I. Krieger, (Academic Press, 2001)”


  1. ‘.. .Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole,
    With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,
    And in the porches of mine ears did pour
    The leprous distilment.. .’

    -Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5 (Quoted in “The Encyclopedia of Forensic Science” by Brian Lane, Headline 1992, at page 375


  1. Mercury is ‘the hottest, the coldest, a true healer, a wicked murderer, a precious medicine, and a deadly poison, a friend that can flatter and lie’.

    -Woodall J. (1639), The Surgeon’s Mate or Military & Domestic Surgery, London, p256 (quoted from Cassarett and Doull’s Toxicology. Also quoted in “Introduction to Toxicology” 2nd Edition by J. A. Timbrell, 1995, Taylor & Francis Ltd, at page 118)


  1. There are old Mushroom Hunters and Bold Mushroom Hunters, but no Old Bold Mushroom Hunters.


  2. Had nature any outcast face?
    Could she a son condemn?
    Had nature an Iscariot
    That mushroom - it is him

    -Emily Dickinson (Quoted in “Wilderness Medicine”, 4th edition, by Paul S. Auerbach, Mosby, 2001; chapter 49 entitled “Mushroom Toxicity” by Sandra Schneider and Mark Donnelly, page 1141)


  1. Keep any cakes and sandwiches over, for the funeral.

    -Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Wilson of Durham, who poisoned her two husbands with phophorus, jokingly at her wedding feast in 1958 (Quoted in “The Bedside Book of Murder” by Richard & Molly Whittington-Egan, at page 81)


  1. We’ll murder them all amid laughter and merriment,
    Except for a few we’ll take home to experiment.
    My pulse will be quickenin’ with each drop of strychnine we feed to a pigeon.
    (It just takes a smidgin!)
    To poison a pigeon in the park.

    -Tom Lehrer (1928- ): in “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” (1953)


  1. Toad, that under cold stone,
    Days and nights went thirty-one,
    Swelter’d venom sleeping got,

    -Shakespeare alluding to the evil reputation of the toad in Macbeth (Reproduced from “Poisons and Poisoners” by C.J.S. Thompson, page 103)


  1. The more technical knowledge a police officer possesses, the greater the probability of securing not only a criminal arrest but also a guilty verdict from the jury.

    -Howell 1988 (Quoted in “Tire Imprint Evidence” by Peter McDonald, 1989 Elsevier, page 189)

  2. The police are the public and the public are the police.

    -Sir Robert Peel (Quoted in “Criminal Investigation - Basic Perspectives” by Paul B. Weston, Charles Lushbaugh and Kenneth M. Wells, eighth edition, 2000, Prentice Hall, page 396)

  3. You become a cop so you can watch the parade from the front. Detective is even better because you don’t have to be in uniform to watch the parade.

    -Detective Captain Frank Bolz (quoted in “Cop Talk” by E.W.Count, Pocket Books, 1994. The quote appears at the beginning of the book)



  1. The process of putrefaction is simple in its complexity and complex in its simplicity, resting upon the variables operating in a particular case.

    -Dr. Krishan Vij, Professor and Head, Department of Forensic Medicine, Government Medical College, Chandigarh, India, in his book “Textbook of Forensic Medicine - Principles and Practice”, B.I. Churchill Livingstone, 2001, page 186