American Medical Biographies/Witthaus, Rudolph August

Witthaus, Rudolph August (1846–1915)

Rudolph August Witthaus was a toxicologist and expert in legal medicine. Born in New York City, August 30, 1846, the son of Rudolph A. and Marie A. Dunbar Witthaus, he received the degree of Bachelor of Arts at Columbia University in 1867, and the Master of Arts at the same institution in 1870. Proceeding to Paris, he studied at the Sorbonne and Collége de France in 1873–74, and, returning to New York, received the degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1875 from New York University Medical College.

Dr. Witthaus was associate professor of chemistry and physics at the New York University from 1876–78, professor of chemistry and toxicology at the University of Vermont from 1878 to 1898, professor of physiological chemistry at the University Medical College (New York) from 1882 to 1886, of chemistry and physics at the same institution from 1886 to 1898, professor of chemistry and toxicology at the University of Buffalo from 1882 to 1888, professor of chemistry and physics at the Cornell University Medical College from 1898 to 1911, and professor emeritus at the same institution from 1911 until his death. Dr. Witthaus was a member of the Chemical Societies of Paris and Berlin and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was called as expert witness in a very large number of poisoning cases, notably in the cases of Carlyle Harris, Buchanan, Mayer, Fleming, and Molineux.

Dr. Witthaus wrote a large number of toxicologic articles, the most important of which were on poisoning by hydrocyanic acid, oxalic acid, opium and strychnine, and on ptomaines (in Wood's "Handbook of the Medical Sciences"). Others were: "On Homicide by Morphine," "The Detection of Quinine," "The Post-Mortem Imbibition of Poisons," "Researches of the Loomis Laboratory." He was also author of the following books: "Essentials of Chemistry" (1879); "General Medical Chemistry," 1861, (in Wood's "Library of Standard Medical Authors"); "Manual of Chemistry" (1879, 6th ed. 1908); "Laboratory Guide in Urinalysis and Toxicology" (1886). The crowning achievement of his life, however was the colossal "Witthaus and Becker's Medical Jurisprudence, Forensic Medicine, and Toxicology" (1894, 4 vols.), of which he was editor-in-chief, and to which he contributed the introduction and the entire fourth volume. A second edition of this work appeared in 1906.

Dr. Witthaus was a man of undersize, lean until late in life, of a sandy complexion, blue-gray eyes and very light, reddish-brown hair. He wore a mustache and rather long side whiskers until past middle age, when he wore the mustache alone. He was a man of quiet, unobtrusive manner, but inclined, at times, to be irascible. His views about religion were very cynical. He married in 1883 or 1884 a widow by the name of Ranney. He was not a man of many friends, but his friendship won was a matter to be appreciated. His life was dedicated, almost wholly, to his professional calling. He died in New York City, December 20, 1915.

Who's Who in Amer. 1914–15.
Private Sources.