POISONS: From Hemlock to Botox and the Killer Bean of Calabar

Peter Macinnis, Author . Arcade $25 (256p) ISBN 978-1-55970-761-9

Macinnis ranges widely and rather lightheartedly in investigating the uses and misuses of poisons (which have received media interest of late because of the poisoning of Ukrainian prime minister Yushchenko). The author, an Australian science writer (Bittersweet: the Story of Sugar ), delivers his carefully researched material in a series of anecdotes crafted with dry humor and informed ruminations. Macinnis describes with zest the effects of all sorts of legal and illegal poisons on humans and animals. He highlights criminal cases through history, including that of Locusta, who sold fine poisons to the Roman nobility and was believed to have supplied the emperor Nero with arsenic to kill Britannicus. As recently as two centuries ago, physicians still inadvertently hastened the deaths of patients through ignorance. George Washington, for instance, may have been the victim of his doctor's prescription for bleeding and some doses of calomel. And Macinnis provides myriad examples of how poisons have permeated the workplace and the world of politics. Mussolini's henchmen forced opponents to consume lethal doses of castor oil mixed with petrol. This engrossing history is not one for the squeamish. B&w illus. Ad/promo and Web marketing. (May)

Reviewed on: 03/14/2005
Release date: 05/01/2005
Show other formats
Paperback - 239 pages - 978-1-61145-014-9
Paperback - 239 pages - 978-1-55970-810-4
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