Book Chapter

The construction of forensic knowledge in Victorian Yorkshire: Dr Thomas Scattergood and his casebooks, 1856-1897


Forensic medicine became a recognised discipline in the nineteenth century, growing alongside the medical and legal professions. Very few medical men taught or studied forensic medicine at the start of the nineteenth century but by the end it was an integral part of medical education, and forensic science had begun to emerge as a separate discipline. This chapter focuses on the forensic expertise and practice of Leeds–based doctor, toxicologist, and lecturer Thomas Scattergood (1826–1900). Alongside his teaching career, he researched forensic techniques and acted as a consultant and medico-legal witness in criminal cases across the north of England. Scattergood’s personal casebooks will be used as the starting point to explore the kinds of forensic techniques available in the second half of the nineteenth century. These volumes contain Scattergood’s compiled notes on a wide range of potential forensic clues, including blood splatters, the effects of fire, water, lightning and earth on the body, knife or blade injuries, strangulation, chemical decomposition of bodies and a variety of poisonings. Case studies from his notebooks illustrate the scientific developments made in forensic medicine in this period. The casebooks also provide insights into the range of individuals involved in the business of medico-legal practice. Beyond his Yorkshire College–based laboratory Scattergood engaged with coroners, policemen, lawyers, judges, postmen, farmers and other doctors, among others, and he therefore lies at the heart of our work to unravel the networks involved in Northern forensic investigations.

Attached files


Sellers, Laura M.
Watson, Katherine D.

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of History, Philosophy and Culture


Year of publication: 2019
Date of RADAR deposit: 2019-09-19

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Related resources

This RADAR resource is Part of The construction of forensic knowledge in Victorian Yorkshire: Dr Thomas Scattergood and his casebooks, 1856-1897
This RADAR resource is Part of Crime and the Construction of Forensic Objectivity from 1850 [ISBN: 9783030288365] / edited by Alison Adam (Palgrave, 2020).


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