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Arsenic and Old Chemistry: Images of Mad Alchemists, Experts Attacking Experts, and the Crisis in Forensic Science

33 Pages Posted: 12 May 2009  

David S. Caudill

Villanova University School of Law

Date Written: May 11, 2009

Abstract

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.

Keywords: experts, legal history, forensic science

Suggested Citation

Caudill, David S., Arsenic and Old Chemistry: Images of Mad Alchemists, Experts Attacking Experts, and the Crisis in Forensic Science (May 11, 2009). Boston University journal of Science and Technology Law, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2009; Villanova Law/Public Policy Research Paper No. 2009-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1402755

David S. Caudill (Contact Author)

Villanova University School of Law ( email )

299 N. Spring Mill Road
Villanova, PA 19085
United States
610-519-7085 (Phone)
610-519-6282 (Fax)

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