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Template:Infobox scientist Template:Forensic science Auguste Ambroise Tardieu (10 April 1818 – 12 January 1879) was a French medical doctor and the pre-eminent forensic medical scientist of the mid-19th century.

Tardieu's specialties were forensic medicine and toxicology. His authoritative book on forensic toxicology (Étude médico-légale et clinique sur l'empoisonnement) has been called a model of clarity and clinical precision.[1]

Over his 23-year career, Tardieu was asked to participate in 5,238 cases as a forensic expert, including many famous and notorious historical crimes. Using his cases as a statistical base, Tardieu wrote over a dozen volumes of forensic analysis, covering such diverse areas as abortion, drowning, hanging, insanity, poisoning, suffocation, syphilis, and tattoos (Labbé, 2005). Additionally—and controversially during his lifetime—Tardieu wrote what may be the first medical or scientific book on child sexual abuse. Far more successful were Tardieu's publications on the terrible working conditions of young boys and girls in mines and factories. For example, his study of copper workers (both child and adult) led to a radical improvement in their working conditions (Labbé, 2005).

Tardieu's ecchymoses, subpleural spots of ecchymosis that follow the death of a newborn child by strangulation or suffocation, were first described by Tardieu in 1859, and were so named in his honor.[2]


The son of artist and mapmaker Ambroise Tardieu, he achieved his Doctorate in Medicine at the Faculté de Médecine of Paris.[3] He was President of the French Academy of Medicine, as well as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Professor of Legal Medicine at the University of Paris.

Sexual abuse research

Tardieu's book Etude Médico-Légale sur les Attentats aux Mœurs[4] (1857) may have been the first scientific or medical book about child sexual abuse. (Masson, 1984, pp. 15–19 and 34-38). "The book went through seven editions: 1857, 1858, 1859, 1862, 1867, 1873, and 1878. The first edition contained 176 pages; the last, 296 pages."[5].

Because sexual assaults against children tended to include physical injures—often serious or fatal injuries—Tardieu classified sexual crimes as a subtype of physical assault. Uncommonly for his era, Tardieu used everyday language to describe sex crimes and the damage caused to their victims. Tardieu discovered that sex crimes against children were alarmingly common: in the 1878 edition, Tardieu noted that over 75% of all the rapes or attempted rapes tried in French courts were committed against children under 16 years old, and most of those against girls under 12 years old. Additionally, he noted that incestuous rape was not uncommon. Nonetheless, Tardieu's research was largely either sharply criticized or ignored by legal authorities and other clinicians, partly because his conclusions and evidence contradicted prevailing beliefs and violated taboos about discussing sex crimes, particularly incest. (Labbé, 2005)

In 1860 the prestigious Annales d'hygiène publique et de médecine légale published an article by Tardieu. Entitled Etude médico-légale sur les sévices et mauvais traitements exercés sur des enfants ("A Medico-legal Study of Cruelty and Brutal treatment Inflicted on Children") [6] which catalogued thirty-two cases of maltreatment suffered by children at the hands of their caretakers. Those cases Tardieu had been commissioned by the court to examine from a medico-legal point of view. The most elaborate case in the article is one involving sexual abuse (life experience of Adelina Defert)[7]. The criminal court at Reims, on 3 December 1859, heard the case of Adelina Defert, seventeen years old. Dr. Nidart, a physician in Sainte-Ménehould, was commissioned by the court to examine her. Dr. Nidart wrote the first of two reports on 22 July 1859, the second report on 29 July.[8] Both reports are part of Tardieu's article. Masson states that Tardieu regarded sexual abuse as a kind of physical abuse, since he included that case history in the article.[9]

Since the article was not referred to in the later literature, Tardieu decided to reproduce it in his book on wounds (Étude sur les Blessures), published nineteen years later, in 1879, the year of his death. Masson quotes Tardieu from p. 70 of that book: "This study, undertaken eighteen years ago, is the first to have been attempted on this subject, about which writers in the field of legal medicine have subsequently remained completely silent."[10]

In recognition of his first clinical descriptions of battered children, battered child syndrome is also known as Tardieu's syndrome.[11]


The following is a list of his works:[1]

  • 1843: De la morve et du farcin chronique chez l’homme.
  • 1849-50: Mémoire sur les modifications physiques et chimiques que détermine dans certaines parties du corps l’exercice des diverse professions, pour servir à la recherche médico-légale de l’identité.
  • 1852: Voiries et cimetières.
  • 1855: Études hygiéniques sur la profession de mouleur en cuivre, pour servir à l’histoire des professions exposées aux poussières inorganiques.
  • 1855: Étude médico-légale sur le tatouage considéré comme signe d’identité.
  • 1856: Étude médico-légale sur l’avortement, suivie d’observations et de recherches pour servir à l’histoire médico-légale des grossesses fausses et simulées.
  • 1856: Étude historique et médico-légale sur les sur la fabrication et l’emploi des alumettes chimiques.
  • 1857: Étude médico-légale sur les attentats aux moeurs.
  • 1852-54: Dictionnaire d’hygiène publique et de salubrité.
  • 1860: Etude médico-légale sur les sévices et mauvais traitements exercés sur des enfants [12]
  • 1864: Étude médico-légale sur les maladies provoquées ou communiquées comprenant l’histoire médico-légale de la syphilis et de ses divers modes de ransmission.
  • 1867: Étude médico-légale et clinique sur l'empoisonnement.
  • 1868: Étude médico-légale sur l’infanticide.
  • 1870: Étude médico-légale sur la pendaison, la strangulation, les suffocations.
  • 1872: Étude médico-légale sur la folie.
  • 1879: Étude médico-légale sur les maladies produites accidentellement ou involontairement.
  • 1879: Étude sur les blessures.




  1. 1.0 1.1 Auguste Ambroise Tardieu (
  2. Tardieu's ecchymoses or spots (
  3. his These pour le Doctorat en Medecine Faculte De Medecine de Paris (fr.)
  4. The title of the book may be freely translated as "Forensic Study of Sexual Assault" (the phrase attentat aux mœurs — literally "assault on decency" — was a common euphemism for rape).
  5. according to Masson in his note no.8 to chapter 2. Freud at the Paris Morgue, pages 22, 207
  6. Translation by Masson, p.15
  7. Adelina Defert, pp.377-389
  8. Masson, pages 20, 21
  9. According to Pons Dictionary French/German sévices means Mißhandlungen. The german word Mißbrauch is translated with the words abus/emploi abusif (German/French section of the same Dictionary).
  10. Masson, p. 22
  11. Tardieu's syndrome (
  12. published in Annales d'hygiène publique et de médecine légale

de:Ambroise Tardieu fr:Auguste Ambroise Tardieu

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