Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Poisons: A History from Hemlock to Botox

Poisons: A History from Hemlock to Botox by Peter Macinnis is a book about, as one may safely surmise, poisons, and their role in human history. I must say that this book was quite a pleasant surprise; I'm by no means a toxicologist, mass murderer or historian but in spite of this, I found Poisons quite appealing. It was well written, and Macinnis managed to keep it both educational and engaging (by no means an easy thing to do!).
I was taken aback by some of the tasks mankind has assigned to poison; one of the most common throughout the ages, it seems, was for the purpose of beautification. For example, Victorian women used nightshade (Atropa belladonna) to increase the size of their pupils in an attempt to make themselves more attractive. The nightshade (or Bella Donna) would paralyze some of the muscles in their eyes, and had a nasty habit of causing issues with ones vision. It seems using toxic paralytics has continued to our day with the use of Botox, which is derived from the same toxin that causes botulism.
I have heard others complain about this book, the primary issue they take with it is that Mr. Macinnis has a tendency to stray from the topic into a somewhat related subject. I noticed this, and frankly, I'm happy with it. When he does go off topic, what he's talking about is still quite related to how poisons played a part. He provides a good background, and it pays off handsomely. It's what makes this book special; it elevates it from what could have been a somewhat dull set of facts and accounts into a brief, fascinating window into the dark, dangerous, world of poison.

Macinnis looks at poisons past, present, and potential, and with wit, charm, and elegance, he presents an interesting subject in an interesting manner.
This is a book I could recommend to just about anybody (except for murderers, of course).

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting facts about how women try to look prettier.