James G. Wigmore, Forensic Toxicologist, Speaker, Author

Although I just published a blog on June 11th, today is a special day in the lives of forensic toxicologists and warrants a memorial entry. Erik Matteo Prochet (EMP) Widmark, the famous pioneer researcher in forensic alcohol toxicology, was born 125 years ago on June 13th 1889 in Halsingborg, Sweden. His middle names were chosen by his Mother and Father who were lay preachers in the free church movement and was the name of the president of the Vladenser Church (Matteo Prochet).

He began studies at Lund University in 1907 and became a graduate in Medicine in 1912. He later became an associate professor in physiology and in 1920, after the usual academic politics, became a full professor in medical and physiological chemistry. He was a popular professor and the students nicknamed him “White Socks” because he always wore white socks.

He developed a micro-method for the determination of blood alcohol which was very robust and reliable and used only 0.1 mL of blood. The micro-method enabled him to conduct research into the pharmacokinetics of alcohol. His method was used widely in forensic laboratories all over the world, and with modifications, was used by me to analyze alcohol standard solutions at the Centre of Forensic Sciences until 2005! His method also allowed for the first practical analysis of blood samples from drinking drivers and contributed greatly to traffic safety.

Widmark’s Magnum Opus

He published numerous papers on alcohol, methyl alcohol and acetone, mainly in German. His most famous publication and Magnum Opus was a 162 page monograph published in 1932 called:

“Die theoretischen Gundlagen and die praktische Verwendbarkeit der gerichtlich-medizinschen Alkoholbestimmung” (Principles and Applications of Medicolegal Alcohol Determination)

In this monograph, he explored the pharmacokinetics of alcohol in detail and described the Widmark formula to determine the amount of alcohol in the body which was:

A= c x p x r

A=       amount of alcohol in body (grams)

C=       blood alcohol concentration (mg/g)

P=       body weight (kilograms)

R=       rho (or Widmark factor) which is the volume of distribution of alcohol

The Widmark equation, with modifications, is still used extensively in court today in drinking and driving and other alcohol-related criminal cases.

Unfortunately, EMP Widmark died on April 30th 1945 at the age of 56 years due to complications of hypertension and coronary artery disease.

As Jones, AW (2009) has commented:

The name of Erik MP Widmark remains secure in the annals of forensic science, toxicology and legal medicine thanks to his many important publications, especially the Widmark equation and the factors B and rho. In 1965 the International Council on Alcohol Drugs and Traffic Safety (ICADTS) created its prestigious Widmark award to honor those scientists who make significant and sustained contributions to knowledge about alcohol, drugs and traffic safety.


Widmark, EMP, “Principles and Applications of Medicolegal Alcohol Determination”, Tanslated from the 1932 German Editions, Biomedical Publications, 1981

Andreasson, R., “Erik Matteo Prochett Widmark, Widmark’s Micromethod and Swedish Legislation on Alcohol and Traffic”, The Information Center for Traffic Safety, Stockholm, Sweden, 1986

Andreasson, R., and Jones, A.W., “Erik M.P. Widmark (1889-1945): Swedish Pioneer in Forensic Alcohol Toxicology”, Forensic Science International, 72: 1-14, 1995

Jones, A.W., “Erik MP Widmark, Bridged the Gap between Forensic Toxicology and Alcohol and Traffic Safety Research”, BLutalkohol, 46: 15-23, 2009

50 Papers on Alcohol Toxicology Listed and Abstracted in LinkedIn

I have just finished summarizing and listing 50 scientific papers on forensic alcohol toxicology that I have published over the years on my LinkedIn Profile in the Publications section. If you are interested in any of these studies, just send me your email address and I can send you a pdf of it.