Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 93, Issue 1, pp 11–24 | Cite as

The history of poisoning: from ancient times until modern ERA

  • Eugenie Nepovimova
  • Kamil KucaEmail author
Review Article


The history of poisoning is one of the greatest chapters of the human history, where curiosity and genius, scientific discoveries and empirical knowledge intertwine with intrigues, crimes, politics, personal tragedies of notabilities, wars and natural disasters. Knowledge of toxic substances is likely as old as the mankind. In the Middle Age, Paracelsus claimed that in the world there is no non-toxic substance that the therapeutic and toxic properties of substances are indistinguishable up to a single parameter—dose. This postulate still belongs among the basic pillars of modern toxicology. Probably, the most ancient way of killing people was poisoning. In addition, the presence of poison in the body of the victim was very difficult to determine, since the symptoms of poisoning were similar to signs of certain diseases. Therefore, the criminals had a big chance to escape the punishment. Nowadays, together with development of toxicology the chance of disclosure of such crimes has increased, however, the progress in the field of design and production of toxic substances has also gone up. Within current contribution we have reviewed the most famous historical cases of poisoning from the antiquity to the present.


History Poisoning Toxicology Poison 



This work was supported by the project Excellence of the University of Hradec Kralove and Long-term development plan of UHK.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of Hradec KraloveHradec KraloveCzech Republic
  2. 2.Faculty of PhilosophyUniversity of Hradec KraloveHradec KraloveCzech Republic

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