ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Mathieu Joseph Bonaventure Orfila (1787-1853), Spanish toxicologist and chemist. Orfila was born on the Spanish island of Minorca and studied medicine in Valencia and Barcelona. He moved to Paris in 1807 and was permitted to stay, despite the outbreak of war between the French and the Spanish, due to the support of his tutor, the chemist Louis Vaquelin. He later succeeded Vaquelin as professor of chemistry in the faculty of medicine at Paris. Orfila published his best-known work Trait des poisons, or Toxicologie generale, at the age of only 27. It presented observations on the symptoms of various poisons, their physiological action and the means of detecting them. In later life he was showered with honours from his adopted country, including the Legion d'Honneur, but in his last years he lost favour with the governement following the establishment of the Republic in 1848.
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