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How did advances in chemistry drive crimes (and the people who solve them)?

1 min
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Did you know that arsenic used to be called the "inheritance powder" because it was used so often to kill relatives who were standing in the way of someone's inheritance? I didn't until working on this episode of Tiny Matters, where we talked to Deborah Blum about her book The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York.

This was such a fun conversation about crime in the early twentieth century, a point in the history of chemistry where things were really changing quickly. Chemists were making advances that shaped everything from household supplies to war, which meant that poisoner's were also having a real moment that was magnified by other events like Prohibition. But Blum's book is about more than just the big societal factors shaping poisonings. She also uses this book to track the careers and fascinating personalities of the individuals who wanted to apply these advances in chemistry to actually figuring out how we can solve poison-related murders.

In our episode, we talk about some of the stories and colorful characters that Blum describes in her book, as well as the fascinating science underlying these tales.


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