History of Toxicology and Environmental Health

History of Toxicology and Environmental Health

Toxicology in Antiquity Volume I

1st Edition - May 22, 2014

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  • Editor: Philip Wexler
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128000458
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128004630

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Toxicology in Antiquity is the first in a series of short format works covering key accomplishments, scientists, and events in the broad field of toxicology, including environmental health and chemical safety. This first volume sets the tone for the series and starts at the very beginning, historically speaking, with a look at toxicology in ancient times. The book explains that before scientific research methods were developed, toxicology thrived as a very practical discipline. People living in ancient civilizations readily learned to distinguish safe substances from hazardous ones, how to avoid these hazardous substances, and how to use them to inflict harm on enemies. It also describes scholars who compiled compendia of toxic agents.

Key Features

  • Provides the historical background for understanding modern toxicology
  • Illustrates the ways ancient civilizations learned to distinguish safe from hazardous substances, how to avoid the hazardous substances and how to use them against enemies
  • Details scholars who compiled compendia of toxic agents


Toxicologists and other professionals working in environmental health fields, as well a more general audience interested in the history of toxicology

Table of Contents

    • Toxicology in Antiquity
    • List of Contributors
    • Foreword
      • References
    • Preface to the Series and Volumes 1 and 2
    • Chapter 1. Toxicology in Ancient Egypt
      • 1.1 Introduction
      • 1.2 Snakes as Described in the Brooklyn Papyrus
      • 1.3 Scorpions
      • 1.4 Tetanus
      • 1.5 Plant and Mineral Toxins
      • References
    • Chapter 2. The Death of Cleopatra: Suicide by Snakebite or Poisoned by Her Enemies?
      • 2.1 Cleopatra’s Ancestry and Historical Background of the Era
      • 2.2 Cleopatra’s Reign. Her Downfall and Her Death
      • 2.3 Epilogue
      • References
    • Chapter 3. Mithridates of Pontus and His Universal Antidote
      • 3.1 Influences
      • 3.2 Pharmacological and Toxic Riches
      • 3.3 Avoiding Assassination by Poison
      • 3.4 The Secret Antidote
      • 3.5 Mithridatium’s Legacy
      • References
    • Chapter 4. Theriaca Magna: The Glorious Cure-All Remedy
      • 4.1 Introduction
      • 4.2 Theriac in Antiquity
      • 4.3 Theriac in the Medieval Period
      • 4.4 Theriac in the Renaissance
      • 4.5 Conclusion
      • References
    • Chapter 5. Nicander, Thêriaka, and Alexipharmaka: Venoms, Poisons, and Literature
      • 5.1 The Thêriaka
      • 5.2 The Alexipharmaka
      • 5.3 The Nicandrean Question
      • 5.4 Ancient Toxicology
      • 5.5 Venoms, Poisons, and Art
      • Reference
    • Chapter 6. Alexander the Great: A Questionable Death
      • 6.1 Alexander’s Last Days
      • 6.2 Modern Theories of Natural Causes
      • 6.3 Modern Theories of Poisoning
      • 6.4 The Styx River Poison Plot
      • References
    • Chapter 7. Harmful Botanicals
      • 7.1 Classical Toxicology
      • 7.2 Sources and Data
      • 7.3 Analysis
      • 7.4 Conclusion
      • References
    • Chapter 8. The Case Against Socrates and His Execution
      • 8.1 Introduction
      • 8.2 Historical Literature
      • 8.3 Hemlock in Ancient Scientific Literature
      • 8.4 Modern Pharmacological Analysis
      • 8.5 Toward a Renewed Interpretation
      • 8.6 Conclusion
      • References
    • Chapter 9. The Oracle at Delphi: The Pythia and the Pneuma, Intoxicating Gas Finds, and Hypotheses
      • References
      • Recommended Reading
    • Chapter 10. The Ancient Gates to Hell and Their Relevance to Geogenic CO2
      • 10.1 Introduction
      • 10.2 Why Enter the Realm of the Shadows?
      • 10.3 The Geologic Background
      • 10.4 The Physicochemical Properties of CO2
      • 10.5 The Biological, Medical, and Physiological Background
      • 10.6 Actual Gas Concentrations Around and Within Gates to Hell
      • 10.7 The Known Sites of Ancient Gates to Hell
      • 10.8 The Historical Relevance
      • Acknowledgment
      • References
    • Chapter 11. Lead Poisoning and the Downfall of Rome: Reality or Myth?
      • 11.1 The Lead Industry in Ancient Rome
      • 11.2 Human Effects of Lead
      • 11.3 Clinical Picture of Lead Toxicity [9]
      • 11.4 Archaeological Determination of Lead Toxicity
      • 11.5 Occurrence of Lead Toxicity
      • 11.6 Discussion
      • References
      • Recommended Reading
    • Chapter 12. Poisons, Poisoners, and Poisoning in Ancient Rome
      • 12.1 Sources
      • 12.2 Poisons
      • 12.3 Poisons Used
      • 12.4 Incidents of Poisoning During the Roman Republic
      • 12.5 Poisoners and Incidents of Poisoning During the Empire
      • 12.6 Conclusion
      • References

Product details

  • No. of pages: 154
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 2014
  • Published: May 22, 2014
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128000458
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128004630

About the Series Volume Editor

Philip Wexler

Philip Wexler
Philip Wexler retired from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) after a long and eminent federal career in its Toxicology and Environmental Health Information Program. While there, he participated in and led intra- and inter-agency teams in the development, enhancement, and maintenance of a broad array of toxicology databases, taking advantage of continuously evolving information technologies. He collaborated on the development of the World Library of Toxicology, the ToxLearn educational tutorial, the Toxicology History Room, and the Toxicology History Association. Mr. Wexler served as Editor-in-Chief for all five editions of Information Resources in Toxicology and served in the same role for editions 1-3 of the Encyclopedia of Toxicology, and the ongoing monographic series, History of Toxicology and Environmental Health, all Elsevier publications. A 4th edition of the Encyclopedia is being planned. In addition, he is co-editor of the book, Chemicals, Environment, Health: A Global Management Perspective and the journal, Global Security: Health Science and Policy, both published by Taylor and Francis. He has authored numerous technical journal articles related to toxicology informatics, education, communications, and history, and chaired sessions, lectured and taught widely on these subjects throughout the globe. Mr. Wexler has been a strong advocate of toxicology public outreach and has organized events at various venues to enhance the public's understanding of the role of toxicology in society and people's lives. He is a trustee of the Toxicology Education Foundation and past chair of the Society of Toxicology's World Wide Web Advisory Team. He is a recipient of the NLM Regents Award for Scholarly or Technical Achievement, the Society of Technical Communications's Distinguished Technical Communication Award, and the Society of Toxicology's Public Communications Award.

Affiliations and Expertise

Retired, National Library of Medicine (NLM), Bethesda, MD, USA

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