History of Toxicology and Environmental Health

History of Toxicology and Environmental Health

Toxicology in Antiquity II

1st Edition - September 1, 2014

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  • Author: Philip Wexler
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128015063
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128016343

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This volume, Toxicology in Antiquity II, continues to tell the story of the roots of toxicology in ancient times. Readers learn that before scientific research methods were developed, toxicology thrived as a very practical discipline. Toxicologists are particularly proud of the rich and storied history of their field and there are few resources available that cover the discipline from a historical perspective. People living in ancient civilizations readily learned to distinguish safe from hazardous substances, how to avoid these hazardous substances and how to use them to inflict harm on enemies. Volume II explores the use of poison as weapons in war and assassinations, early instances of air pollution, the use of hallucinogens and entheogens, and the role of the snake in ancient toxicology.

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, environmental health professionals, science historians, general audience.

Table of Contents

    • Toxicology in Antiquity
    • List of Contributors
    • Foreword
      • References
    • Preface to the Series and Volumes 1 and 2
    • Chapter 1. Murder, Execution, and Suicide in Ancient Greece and Rome
      • Suggested Readings
    • Chapter 2. Chemical and Biological Warfare in Antiquity
      • 2.1 The Concept of Toxic Weaponry in Greco-Roman and Indian Mythology
      • 2.2 Poisons from Plants in Historical Warfare
      • 2.3 Snake Venom Arrows
      • 2.4 Plague and Contagion
      • 2.5 Poisoning Water Sources and Food Supplies
      • 2.6 Venomous Insects, Snakes, and Scorpions
      • 2.7 Aerosol and Incendiary Weapons
      • 2.8 Practical Issues and Ethical Qualms
      • References
    • Chapter 3. Anthropogenic Air Pollution in Ancient Times
      • 3.1 Pollution of the Environment in Ancient Times
      • 3.2 Lead in Ancient Times
      • 3.3 Copper in Ancient Times
      • 3.4 Environmental Awareness in Ancient Israel
      • Acknowledgment
      • References
    • Chapter 4. Poisoning in Ancient Rome: The Legal Framework, The Nature of Poisons, and Gender Stereotypes
      • 4.1 Veneficium and Legal Terminology
      • 4.2 Perpetrators, Trials, Stereotypes
      • 4.3 Training for the Courts
      • 4.4 Jurists and the Interpretation of Laws
      • Selected Bibliography
    • Chapter 5. Asclepius and the Snake as Toxicological Symbols in Ancient Greece and Rome
      • References
    • Chapter 6. Drugs, Suppositories, and Cult Worship in Antiquity
      • 6.1 Introduction
      • 6.2 Drugs and Cults
      • 6.3 Bacchants and Viper Venom
      • 6.4 Ancient Vaginal Suppositories
      • 6.5 Drugs and Sexuality
      • 6.6 Aphrodisiac Suppositories and Magic
      • 6.7 Conclusion
      • References
    • Chapter 7. Kohl Use in Antiquity: Effects on the Eye
      • 7.1 Introduction
      • 7.2 Protective Effect against UV Radiation
      • 7.3 Antimicrobial Action and Biomedical Importance
      • References
    • Chapter 8. “Gleaming and Deadly White”: Toxic Cosmetics in the Roman World
      • 8.1 A Fair Complexion
      • 8.2 Rouge
      • 8.3 Eye Makeup
      • 8.4 Hair Removers
      • References
    • Chapter 9. Poisonous Medicine in Ancient China
      • 9.1 Etymology of du
      • 9.2 du in Chinese Pharmacology
      • 9.3 Aconite, the Power to Cure
      • 9.4 Aconite, the Power to Kill
      • 9.5 From du to pharmakon
      • References
    • Chapter 10. The Venomous Virgin: Fact or Fantasy?
      • 10.1 Secretum Secretorum
      • 10.2 Other Versions
      • 10.3 Conclusion
      • References
    • Chapter 11. Mushroom Intoxication in Mesoamerica
      • References
    • Chapter 12. Entheogens in Ancient Times: Wine and the Rituals of Dionysus
      • References
    • Chapter 13. Entheogens (Psychedelic Drugs) and the Ancient Mystery Religions
      • 13.1 Pharmacological Roots of Religion
      • 13.2 Hermeneutics and a Definition of Terms
      • 13.3 Toxicology
      • 13.4 Sources, Chemistry, and Effects
      • Additional Readings
      • References

Product details

  • No. of pages: 152
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 2014
  • Published: September 1, 2014
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128015063
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128016343

About the Author

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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