History Of Toxicology

The historical development of toxicology began with early cave dwellers who recognized poisonous plants and animals and used their extracts for hunting or in warfare.With time, poisons became widely used—and with great sophistication. Notable poisoning victims include Socrates, Cleopatra, and Claudius.. Noteworthy in this regard were the studies of Paracelsus (~1500AD) and Orfila (~1800 AD).


Paracelsus (1493-1541) determined that specific chemicals were actually responsible for the toxicity of a plant or animal poison. He also documented that the body’s response to those chemicals depended on the dose received. His studies revealed that small doses of a substance might be harmless or beneficial (hormesis) whereas larger doses could be toxic. This is now known as the dose – response relationship. a major concept of toxicology. Paracelsus is often quoted for his statement: ‘All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison and a remedy.’


There were some important developments during the eighteenth century. Probably the best known is the publication of Ramazini’s Diseases of Workers in 1700, whichled to his recognition as the father of occupational medicine.


Mathieu Orfila (1787 – 1853) Spanish physician is often referred to as the father of toxicology. who first established a systematic correlation between the chemical and biological properties of poisons. Having given the subject its first formal treatment in 1813 in his Traité des poisons, also called Toxicologie générale .He demonstrated effects of poisons on specific organs by analyzing autopsy materials for poisons and their associated tissue damage.


Magendie (1783-1885) detailed the absorption and  distribution of various compounds in the body.

With the publication of her controversial book, The Silent Spring, in 1962, RachelCarson became an important influence in initiating the modern era of environmental toxicology. Her book emphasized stopping the widespread, indiscriminate use ofpesticides and other chemicals and advocated use patterns based on sound ecology.


It is clear, however, that since the 1960s toxicology has entered a phase of rapid development and has changed from a science that was largely descriptive to one in which the importance of mechanisms of toxic action is generally recognized. Since the 1970s, with increased emphasis on the use of the techniques of molecular biology, the pace of change has increased even further, and significant advances have been made in many areas, including chemical carcinogenesis and xenobiotic metabolism, among many others.