Drawing on research into the use of experts in early 19th-century criminal trials, the image of mad alchemists in popular culture representations of science, and the distinction between empirical and contingent “interpretive repertoires” in the discourse of scientific controversies, this article explores the controversy over arsenic-detection technologies prior to the Marsh test. In addition to noting the predictable criticism of incompetent expertise in the service of law, this article highlights implied accusations of hubris and amorality on the part of over-confident experts, both in the early 19th-century and in today's crisis of forensic science.
Evidence | Legal History, Theory and Process
Date of this Version
David S. Caudill, "Arsenic and Old Chemistry: Images of Mad Alchemists, Experts Attacking Experts, and the Crisis in Forensic Science" (May 2009). Villanova University School of Law Working Paper Series. Working Paper 136.