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       Dr. Leo A. Dal Cortivo's Biography

Long Island and Florida


While working for Suffolk County, the native New Yorker became very fond of Long Island.  Leo and his wife of 48 years, Patricia (Pat), lived in Suffolk County in both Miller Place and Montauk.  Leo and Pat were very fond of Montauk.  Leo could be seen on occasion boating off the shore of Montauk which was one of his passions. 


Leo and Pat became comfortable with their home of Long Island.  In the 1980’s, while dining together in a Long Island restaurant popular at that time called Big Barry’s, Leo’s wife Pat was filmed and briefly featured in a television commercial.  The commercial played regularly on local New York television stations.


When leaving Suffolk County in 1990, Leo and Pat also left Long Island for Venice, Florida.  Venice would become his permanent home.  As much as he enjoyed the sandy beaches of the Florida coast, he always remained a New Yorker at heart and returned to visit family and friends on occasion. 

Leo received a B.S. Degree at Fordham College, a M.S. Degree in biochemistry at Adelphi University and earned his Doctorate in Chemistry/Toxicology at Fordham University.  His PH.D. Dissertation was titled "Chemical Studies on Biologic Specimens in Heroin Related Fatalities."  In the early stages of his career, Dr. Dal Cortivo worked at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, NY from 1950-1954.  During his time with the hospital, Dr. Dal Cortivo held the position of Department of Laboratories Supervisor, providing oversight to 10-12 subordinates.  Dr. Dal Cortivo then served as a Bio-Sciences Specialist for the US Army at the First Army Area Medical Laboratories in New York City from 1954-1955. 


From 1955-1960, Dr. Dal Cortivo served as the Senior Chemist (Toxicology) for the Office of Chief Medical examiner, City of New York; where his main role was to perform and supervise toxicological analysis of tissues and body fluids in medical-legal investigative unit.  During this time period (specifically 1955-1956), Dr. Dal Cortivo also served as a Research and teaching Assistant with Fordham University, N.Y, N.Y. 


In 1960 Dr. Dal Cortivo accepted the position of Chief Toxicologist and Director of Forensic Science Laboratories in Suffolk County on Long Island, New York.  Dr. Dal Cortivo would soon become one of the most respected toxicologists in his field.  He appeared as an expert witness in numerous court cases, many of them of national significance.  He was also referenced in many news articles in such publications as New York Newsday, The New York Times and Time Magazine to name a few.


During his career Leo acted as a consultant for the Department of Defense and for the Department of Health and Human Services, inspecting drug testing laboratories throughout the country and abroad.  Leo was a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) and past chairman of its Toxicology Section, a co‐founder of the Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SOFT) and its second President, a former Treasurer and Trustee of the Forensic Science Foundation, a member of The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT) and various other professional societies and associations.
Leo retired from Suffolk County in 1990 after 30 years of serving Suffolk County and a lifetime dedicated to toxicology and forensic science.  In 1990, the Toxicology Section of the AAFS honored Dr. Dal Cortivo with the Alexander O. Gettler Award for his contributions to the field of forensic toxicology.  Although retired, Dr. Dal Cortivo still continued to work on occasion for many years, facilitating presentations at numerous conferences.


Dr. Dal Cortivo passed away on December 15, 2011.  Leo was survived by his loving wife Pat, his sister Thelma, his brother Robert (Robert since passed in 2013) and many nieces, nephews, grand nieces and grand nephews. 

Leo is missed greatly by both his families…his relatives and his toxicology family.  Dr. Leo A. Dal Cortivo rests at Sarasota National Cemetery in Sarasota, Florida and has a memorial tree planted in his honor in an arboretum located in Blalock Park on Island of Venice, Florida. 



Leo Dal Cortivo was born on September 16, 1928 in New York City to parents Ottorino and Natalina Dal Cortivo.  Leo was their third born of four children (Thelma, Domenic, Leo and Robert). 


Leo was raised in New York City and received his early education in NYC public schools (P.S. 33 and 11) and graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1946.  He spent his childhood, playing in New York City around the area which has since housed Madison Square Garden. 


Leo was known for telling friends and colleagues about his experiences growing up in New York City; which included seeing famous celebrities of the time period in the neighborhood on occasion, such as Babe Ruth (in a fur coat). 


Comments about Dr. Dal Cortivo

"His affidavit had been heavily relied on in that motion, and even in helping us formulate the arguments in our appellate brief....he explained to the jury ...any residue would have been "wiped clean" when the needle was extracted from the skin. It was exciting to see the real expert show the jury..."

-Alan Dershowitz from his book "Reversal of Fortune"


"...Leo often presented with me...he taught me, advised me, lent me his slides and offered his opinions on everything from scripts, to lighting, to opera...When my book about the history of forensic science, “The Science of Sherlock Holmes” was published, one of the first copies off the press went to Leo. The kind letter he wrote in response is one of my proudest possessions..."
-E.J. Wagner, Crime Historian and award winning author.


“…Leo imbued in me the belief that forensic toxicological analysis involved not just routine blood and urine tests but all tissues, especially the brain, the target organ for most psychoactive drugs…Leo  told me stories about the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office, Dr. Milton Halpern, Dr. Alexander Gettler, the Marilyn Monroe autopsy and the Carl Coppolino case....He {Leo} will always be 'one of the most interesting people' I have ever met.
-Dr. Sigmund Menchel
Former Chief Medical Examiner for Suffolk County


"...Dal Cortivo-Considered by others in the field to be one of the nation's leading experts in poisons and their effect on the body..."-Manny Topol former Newsday reporter


"As a kid, he was always more interested in science than anything else; and he was very smart at an early age.  My father gave him a special room in the house for him to work on his science projects.  Leo was always in there working on his experiments...When Leo would go on a business trip, he would always send me a postcard.  I had a whole bunch of postcards from places he traveled, to speak at conferences, from all over the world."  

-Thelma (Dal Cortivo) Fusaro; Leo's sister.

-Thelma Fusaro, Leo's sister. 



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