Code of Hammurabi

A must attend talk will be the upcoming DEMLA meeting on Tuesday 19 April 2016 by Professor John Pearn on Hammurabi’s Code

The history of law dates from Palaeolithic times. Every known pre-literate society has had complex legal systems embodying both the principles of social order and the imposition of justice. From the pre-literate past emerged the first examples of written law, the heritage of which is a datum from which the laws of today can be viewed. All branches of the law trace their origins to codes, both oral and written, from earliest sources. The law in general, and the domain of medico-legal specialties in particular, trace their origins to Hammurabi’s Code. Hammurabi (ruled 1792-1750 B.C.E.) was the sixth King of First Dynasty of ancient Babylon, today an archaeological site in modern-day Iraq. Hammurabi’s Laws (circa 1750 B.C.E.), on stone-inscribed steles, were set up in public places in ancient Babylon, towards the end of his 43-year reign. Comprising almost 300 specific laws, with judicial punishment for transgressions, Hammurabi’s Code reflects his role both as a guardian of the vulnerable and as a protector of the weak and powerless. Just as Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.E.) is regarded as the founder of western medicine, so Hammurabi is the pioneer of law as it has evolved to its sophisticated state today.


Professor John Pearn

Professor John Pearn is the Senior Paediatrician at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, the tertiary referral and teaching hospital for Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia. A longstanding Honorary Member of the Devon and Exeter Medical Society, Professor Pearn has published extensively in the domain of medical history. He was one of the three medical consultants to the Herbicides [Agent Orange] Class Action Case in the Federal Court of the United States in 1984; and was a consultant in medico-legal matters in a milestone Mercy of the Crown Appeal to the Canadian Minister of Justice in 1986. He has been extensively involved in advocacy and legislative consultation relating to child protection and safety. He was an invited guest Panel Member on a forum on Udal Law at the 14th Orkney International Science Festival in 2004. Major General John Pearn is a former Surgeon General of the Australian Defence Force and an Honorary Visiting Fellow (History and Ethics) at Green-Templeton College, The University of Oxford. He is the author of book chapters and published papers on medico-legal and forensic topics, particularly as these relate to children.

The event is kindly being hosted at Michelmores Solicitors, Woodwater House, Pynes Hill, Exeter, Devon, EX2 5WR with buffet from 5.30pm. £30 for non-members, free for members. Full membership subscription £40.