Born on 27 January 1837 in Prague. He studied at the University of Prague and received his doctorate in medicine in 1861. In the same year, he took up a position as an assistant at the Prague Institute for Forensic Medicine and was entrusted with the chair in a caretaking capacity following the death of the head at that time, Popel, in 1864. In 1869, Hofmann filled the newly created position of Chair for State Pharmacology in Innsbruck, before being called to Vienna in 1875. Given that Hofmann was fluent in German, Czech, French and Italian, he had access to a wide range of literature on forensic medicine. He studied important cases in great detail using this literature and, by publishing these, made them accessible to other experts in the field. Hofmann recognised the value of the large number of corpses for post-mortems ordered by the health authorities or the courts which, thanks to him, were part of the duties of the institute and could be used for scientific and teaching purposes. The building of the Institute for Forensic Medicine was extended in 1883 when a second floor and an auditorium were added. The working areas were moved to the south wing of the first floor and the museum was moved to the second floor. The auditorium, post-mortem room for forensic medical doctors and the laboratory were housed in the southern half.
Hofmann’s time as head of the institute also saw the death of Crown Prince Rudolph on 30 January 1889. Hofmann was involved in the post-mortem examination of the heir to the throne and proved suicide. Furthermore, evidence gathered during the examination indicated, according to Hofmann, that Rudolph acted in a state of extreme mental confusion. This made it possible for the body to be interred by the church.
· Excerpt from the report on the death of Crown Prince Rudolph
Hofmann’s examination of the victims of the Ringtheater fire on 8 December 1881, in which the lives of more than 380 victims were claimed, brought further important findings for forensic medicine. Hofmann established the presence of carbon monoxide in the blood of charred bodies for the first time and demonstrated that smoke inhalation can be fatal. He provided ultimate proof here that the inhalation of smoke is a definitive sign of someone having been burned alive and the lack of carbon monoxide in the blood is an indication of someone being burned post mortem.
The Wiener Freiwillige Rettungsgesellschaft, Vienna’s first rescue organisation, was established following the tragic events on 8 December 1881. Modern identification methods were used when examining the bodies, such as by using dental records.
Hofmann worked his whole life to give forensic medicine a scientific basis and used microscopy for his subject.
His services to science and healthcare were recognised by his being awarded the Order of the Iron Crown in 1884, lifting him to the status of knighthood. Hofmann was buried in an honorary grave in 1897 at Vienna’s Central Cemetery.
Die Respiration während der Geburt mit besonderer Rücksicht auf das Einatmen von Fruchtwasser als Hilfsmittel zur Erkenntnis des auf natürlichem Wege eingetretenen Todes der Neugeborenen (professorial thesis).
Lehrbuch der gerichtlichen Medizin
Atlas der gerichtlichen Medizin
Über den plötzlichen Tod aus natürlicher Ursache.
Development of an autopsy technique for children’s bodies
Investigations and work on subjects including: suffocation, infanticide, tubal pregnancies, proving virginity and defloration
Promoting the use of toxicology in forensic medicine
Incorporating medical chemistry into forensic medicine