Science in our courts of law. Proof with manuscript corrections. Robert Angus Smith.

Science in our courts of law. Proof with manuscript corrections

Publisher Information: 1860.

Smith, Robert Angus (1817-84). Science in our courts of law. Proof with several manuscript corrections in pencil, presumably by Smith. 6 columns printed on large bifolium. N.p., n.d. [1860]. 512 x 339 mm. Unbound. Some small losses along folds affecting a few words, light soiling, edges a bit frayed but very good. From the library of Alfred Swaine Taylor (1806-80), docketed in his hand.

Pre-Publication Proof with Manuscript Corrections of Smith’s important paper on the role of expert scientific testimony in legal affairs. The proof is from the library of Alfred Swaine Taylor, founder of forensic toxicology and the leading medico-legal expert of his day, who worked with Smith to reform the British legal system’s handling of scientific evidence.

Angus Smith was an analytical chemist who investigated numerous environmental issues in 19th-century industrial Britain; he is best known for discovering what we now know as “acid rain,” a term he coined. In 1857 Smith was an expert witness in a nuisance case against an alum factory owner in Manchester, who had been accused of allowing noxious gases to pollute the surrounding area. During the trial the lawyers for each side bent and shaped the scientific evidence to support their opposing arguments, a process that Smith found both repugnant and antithetical to the impartial nature of scientific inquiry. He joined with several other scientists, including Taylor, to call for changes in the way that the legal system dealt with scientific evidence, delivering the present paper before the Royal Society of Arts on 18 January 1860 and publishing it in vol. 7 (1860) of the Society’s Journal.

Smith had three primary objections to the current use of expert evidence. The first concerned the supposed conflict in the expert evidence by the opposing parties: there was often no conflict, but where it existed it was manipulated by counsels who had little or no understanding of the evidence and were prepared to distort it for their own selfish advantage. The second issue was at the heart of the evidence itself and the role of science in public affairs: if the evidence could be challenged at every stage, then, Angus Smith argued, “science would effectively be prevented from providing useful guidance in public affairs.” The third issue was the overriding concern of the antipathy between science and the advocacy of the law, comparing a scientist and a barrister [trial lawyer]. While a barrister in practice may be required to take a biased role, for the scientist it was different” (P. Reed, Acid Rain and the Rise of the Environmental Chemist in Nineteenth-Century Britain, pp. 89-90).

Book Id: 45520

Price: $750.00

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