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Law Enforcement has used forensic science for years to help solve puzzling crimes. But not to many people know just how long the art of forensic science has been around. For example evidence of fingerprints were found in paintings and prehistoric rock carvings made by humans.
The Chinese have probably used forensics much longer than most civilizations. For example back in the 700’s they used fingerprints to find out the identity of documents and clay sculptures. What made this unusual was that there was no form of classification system back then. They were pretty much learning as they went along. They probably helped out today’s forensics more than we actually know.
Another step in forensics by the Chinese was in 1248bc a book was written called Hsi Duan Yu- The Washing away of wrongs. This book described in detail the differences found in a human body when someone was strangled compared to when someone had drowned. This book is believed to be the first written record of medical forensic science to help solve crimes.
The 1600’s were a time in human history where man was coming out of the dark ages and started to concentrate more on science than witchcraft. This is why starting with the 1600’s there have been so many leaps forward in forensic science. For instance in 1609 Francios Demelle of France published the first treatise on systematic document examination. In 1686 Marcello Malpighi, who was a professor of anatomy at the University of Bologna, documented the different characteristics of fingerprints.
From there the progress in finding new forensic techniques just flourished at an astounding rate. For instance, in 1810 the Germans were the first to record the use of question document analysis. This was a chemical test for a certain type of ink dye done to a document known as the Konigin Hanschritt. In 1813 a Spanish professor became known as the father of modern day toxicology for papers he had published on chemical content of blood. He is also thought to be one of the firsts to use a microscope to detect and to tell the difference between blood and semen stains.
There was one invention in 1828 that forever changed the science of forensic. This was the invention of the polarizing light microscope. This one invention aloud for a much more in depth look at evidence and the man that invented this was William Nichol. In 1835 Henry Goddard who was working for Scotland Yard did the very first bullet comparison to solve a murder case. He noticed a flaw on the fired bullet and he then traced that back to the mold that made the bullet. James Marsh, another Scottish, was the first to use toxicology in a jury trial. He had been able to detect arsenic.
In 1854 an English doctor developed dry plate photography. This made it possible to photograph inmates for more complete prison records. In 1856 a British officer named Sir William Herschel was working for the Indian Civil Service started using fingerprints to verify documents. He also used fingerprints instead of signature for people who could not sign a signature. A leap into the future was made by Odelbrecht in forensic science. He was the first to advocate the use of photography in documenting evidence and crime scenes. Rudolph Virchow, a German pathologist was one of the first to study hair samples in the field of forensics in 1879.
A French police officer named Alphonse Bertillon in 1883 identified the first recidivist based on his invention of anthropometrics. In 1889 a French professor named Alexandre Lacassagne was the first to try and match bullets to the barrels they were fired out of. He compared the number of lands and grooves made in the bullet by the barrel of the gun. Another system was brought forward in 1896 that would become part of forensic science in Europe and North America. Sir Edward Richard Henry developed the print classification system for fingerprints that would be used by modern day investigators. In 1900 Karl Landstiener discovered that blood had different types. He also developed a test to type blood. He won the Nobel Prize in 1930 for this.
New York State prison system first began using fingerprints for criminal identification in 1903. Also in 1905 President Roosevelt established the FBI in 1905. In 1910 Edmund Locard who was a professor in France established the first police crime libratory. John Larson and Leonard Keeler developed the first portable polygraph machine in 1921. August Vollmer a LA police chief established the first U.S. police crime laboratory in1924.
In 1945 Frank Linquist developed the acid phosphatase test for semen. The American Academy of Forensic Science was first established in Chicago. This group also began to publish the Journal of Forensic Science. R.F. Bokerstien, a captain for the Indiana State police, invented the breathalyzer for the field sobriety test in 1954. In 1974 the detection of gunshot residue was made possible by J.E. Wessle, P.F. Jones, Q.Y. Kwan, R.S. Nesbitt and E.J. Rattin using scanning electron microscopy with electron dispersive X-ray technology they developed.
The one development that has probably made the biggest difference in forensic science is DNA. In 1984 Alec Jeffery’s developed the first profiling test using the detection of a multilocus RFLP pattern. Jeffrey’s used this to solve a murder of two young girls in the English Midlands. In 1987 DNA profiling was used for the first time in a court case in the U.S. Tommy Lee Andrews was convicted in Florida for a series of sexual assaults in this case.
In the last fifteen years there have been many more developments and invention that has brought forensic science to the forefront in criminal investigations. I’ll almost guarantee that the next fifteen years will bring many more. Law enforcement could get very exciting from a forensic science view.
American Forensic Science Journal
The Evolution and Development of police Technology-by-Seaskate Inc.