Algor mortis

Algor mortis (Latin: algor—coldness; mortis—of death), the second stage of death, is the change in body temperature post mortem, until the ambient temperature is matched. This is generally a steady decline, although if the ambient temperature is above the body temperature (such as in a hot desert), the change in temperature will be positive, as the (relatively) cooler body acclimates to the warmer environment. External factors can have a significant influence.

The term was first used by Dowler[who?] in 1849.[citation needed] The first published measurements of the intervals of temperature after death were done by Dr John Davy in 1839.[1][2]


An XY plot of the Glaister equation with values from 37 °C to 20 °C (a commonly used ambient temperature)

A measured rectal temperature can give some indication of the time of death. Although the heat conduction which leads to body cooling follows an exponential decay curve, it can be approximated as a linear process: 2 °C during the first hour and 1 °C per hour until the body nears ambient temperature.

The Glaister equation[3][4] estimates the hours elapsed since death as a linear function of the rectal temperature:


As decomposition occurs the internal body temperature tends to rise again.[citation needed]


Generally, temperature change is considered an inaccurate means of determining time of death, as the rate of change is affected by several key factors, including:[5]

  • Stability or fluctuation of the ambient temperature.
  • The level and thickness of clothing or similar materials.
  • The thermal conductivity of the surface on which a body lies.
  • Diseases or drugs which increase body temperature and thereby raise the starting temperature of the corpse at the time of death
  • The existence of a "temperature plateau",[6] a highly variable length of time in which the body does not cool.


  1. ^ Davy, John (1839). Researches: Physiological and Anatomical. Smith, Elder and Company. p. 228.
  2. ^ Madea, Burkhard (2015). Estimation of the Time Since Death, Third Edition. CRC Press.
  3. ^ http://www.fmap.archives.gla.ac.uk/DC403/DC403_page.htm
  4. ^ Guharaj, P. V. (2003). "Cooling of the body (algor mortis)". Forensic Medicine (2nd ed.). Hyderabad: Longman Orient. pp. 61–62.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-09-08. Retrieved 2013-05-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Kaliszan, M. (20 May 2005). "Verification of the exponential model of body temperature decrease after death in pigs". Experimental Physiology. 90 (5): 727–738. doi:10.1113/expphysiol.2005.030551.

Further reading

  • Saferstein, Richard (2004). Criminalistics: Introduction to Forensics (8th ed.). Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-113706-9.
  • Karen T. Taylor, "Forensic art and illustration", CRC Press, 2000, ISBN 0-8493-8118-5, p. 308
  • Robert G. Mayer, "Embalming: history, theory, and practice", McGraw-Hill Professional, 2005, ISBN 0-07-143950-1, p. 106
  • Calixto Machado, "Brain death: a reappraisal", Springer, 2007, ISBN 0-387-38975-X, pp. 73–74

External links

This page was last updated at 2021-01-10 09:37, update this pageView original page

All information on this site, including but not limited to text, pictures, etc., are reproduced on Wikipedia (wikipedia.org), following the . Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License


If the math, chemistry, physics and other formulas on this page are not displayed correctly, please useFirefox or Safari