Death on the Nile: forensic medicine in inter-war Egypt

Year of award: 2018


  • Dr Heather Wolffram

Project summary

Recent investigations into the development of British forensic science contends that colonial medico-legal laboratories were a testing ground for new ideas and technologies allowing British scientists to ‘cut their forensic teeth’. There has been little research into the way forensic medicine was organised and practised in British colonies, how national and environmental contexts affected the development of forensic techniques and how practitioners shared knowledge through imperial networks. I will produce a book-length study of forensic medicine in inter-war Egypt that will help answer these questions.

I will use information about the government’s medico-legal institute in Cairo from the Forensic Medicine Archive at the University of Glasgow and the Sydney Smith papers at the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh as well as the National Archives. Materials on inter-war forensic medicine at Wellcome and the British Library will also provide context. 

I will investigate the routine work of testing poisons and narcotics carried out by the institute and show how assassinations associated with Egypt’s struggle for independence led to the development of forensic ballistics.