Forensic Science

During the 1920s advances in medicine, chemistry, and microscopy prepared the way for the adoption of scientific analysis rather than pure observation and intuition as the cornerstone of criminal investigation. The result of these advances was to replace supposition with reality (or fact) and present testimonial evidence to the trier-of-fact (judge or jury) in criminal or civil proceedings.

The vast majority of analytical methods employed by traditional forensic science grew out of university laboratories. In fact, before 1929 no official crime laboratory existed in the United States. Instead, police departments interested in using scientific analysis in crime solving would solicit the assistance of prominent university professors to help them collect and examine potential evidence.

Below are some of the most prominent breakthroughs in forensic science up to the end of the 20’s:

1813 Mathiew Orfila, a Spaniard who became professor of medicinal/forensic chemistry at University of Paris, published Traite des Poisons Tires des Regnes Mineral, Vegetal et Animal, ou Toxicologie General l. Orfila is considered the father of modern toxicology. He also made significant contributions to the development of tests for the presence of
blood in a forensic context and is credited as the first to attempt the use of a microscope in the assessment of blood and
semen stains.

1828 William Nichol invented the polarizing light microscope.

1831 Leuchs first noted amylase activity in human saliva.

1835 Henry Goddard, one of Scotland Yard’s original Bow Street Runners, first used bullet comparison to catch a murderer. His comparison was based on a visible flaw in the bullet which was traced back to a mold.

1836 James Marsh, a Scottish chemist, was the first to use toxicology (arsenic detection) in a jury trial.

1839 H. Bayard published the first reliable procedures for the microscopic detection of sperm. He also noted the different microscopic characteristics of various different substrate fabrics.

1851 Jean Servais Stas, a chemistry professor from Brussels, Belgium, was the first successfully to identify vegetable poisons in body tissue.

1853 Ludwig Teichmann, in Kracow, Poland, developed the first microscopic crystal test for hemoglobin using hemin crystals.

1862 The Dutch scientist J. (Izaak) Van Deen developed a presumptive test for blood using guaiac, a West Indian shrub.

1863 The German scientist Schönbein first discovered the ability of hemoglobin to oxidize hydrogen peroxide making it foam. This resulted in first presumptive test for blood.

1864 Odelbrecht first advocated the use of photography for the identification of criminals and the documentation of evidence and crime scenes.

1877 Thomas Taylor, microscopist to U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested that markings of the palms of the hands and the tips of the fingers could be used for identification in criminal cases. Although reported in the American Journal of Microscopy and Popular Science and Scientific American, the idea was apparently never pursued from this source.

1879 Rudolph Virchow, a German pathologist, was one of the first to both study hair and recognize its limitations.

1880 Henry Faulds, a Scottish physician working in Tokyo, published a paper in the journal Nature suggesting that fingerprints at the scene of a crime could identify the offender. In one of the first recorded uses of fingerprints to solve a crime, Faulds used fingerprints to eliminate an innocent suspect and indicate a perpetrator in a Tokyo burglary.

1883 Alphonse Bertillon, a French police employee, identified the first recidivist based on his invention of anthropometry.

1887 Arthur Conan Doyle published the first Sherlock Holmes story in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of London.

1889 Alexandre Lacassagne, professor of forensic medicine at the University of Lyons, France, was the first to try to individualize bullets to a gun barrel. His comparisons at the time were based simply on the number of lands and grooves.

1892 (Sir) Francis Galton published Fingerprints, the first comprehensive book on the nature of fingerprints and their use in solving crime.

1892 Juan Vucetich, an Argentinean police researcher, developed the fingerprint classification system that would come to be used in Latin America. After Vucetich implicated a mother in the murder of her own children using her bloody fingerprints, Argentina was the first country to replace anthropometry with fingerprints.

1894 Alfred Dreyfus of France was convicted of treason based on a mistaken handwriting identification by Bertillon.

1896 Sir Edward Richard Henry developed the print classification system that would come to be used in Europe and North America. He published Classification and Uses of Finger Prints.

1898 Paul Jesrich, a forensic chemist working in Berlin, Germany, took photomicrographs of two bullets to compare, and subsequently individualize, the minutiae.

1901 Paul Uhlenhuth, a German immunologist, developed the precipiten test for species. He was also one of the first to institute standards, controls, and QA/QC procedures. Wassermann (famous for developing a test for syphilis) and Schütze independently discovered and published the precipiten test, but never received due credit.

1900 Karl Landsteiner first discovered human blood groups and was awarded the Nobel prize for his work in 1930. Max Richter adapted the technique to type stains. This is one of the first instances of performing validation experiments specifically to adapt a method for forensic science. Landsteiner’s continued work on the detection of blood, its species, and its type formed the basis of practically all subsequent work.

1901 Sir Edward Richard Henry was appointed head of Scotland Yard and forced the adoption of fingerprint identification to replace anthropometry.

1901 Henry P. DeForrest pioneered the first systematic use of fingerprints in the United States by the New York Civil Service Commission.

1902 Professor R.A. Reiss, professor at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and a pupil of Bertillon, set up one of the first academic curricula in forensic science. His forensic photography department grew into Lausanne Institute of Police Science.

1903 The New York State Prison system began the first systematic use of fingerprints in United States for criminal identification.

1903 At Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, Kansas, Will West, a new inmate, was initially confused with a resident convict William West using anthropometry. They were later (1905) found to be easily differentiated by their fingerprints.

1904 Oskar and Rudolf Adler developed a presumptive test for blood based on benzidine, a new chemical developed by Merk.

1904 Locard published L’enquete criminelle et les methodes scientifique, in which appears a passage that may have given rise to the forensic precept that “Every contact leaves a trace.”

1905 American President Theodore Roosevelt established Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

1910 Victor Balthazard, professor of forensic medicine at the Sorbonne, with Marcelle Lambert, published the first comprehensive hair study, Le poil de l’homme et des animaux. In one of the first cases involving hairs, Rosella Rousseau was convinced to confess to murder of Germaine Bichon. Balthazard also used photographic enlargements of bullets and cartridge cases to determining weapon type and was among the first to attempt to individualize a bullet
to a weapon.

1910 Edmund Locard, successor to Lacassagne as professor of forensic medicine at the University of Lyons, France, established the first police crime laboratory.

1910 Albert S. Osborne, an American and arguably the most influential document examiner, published Questioned Documents.

1912 Masaeo Takayama developed another microscopic crystal test for hemoglobin using hemochromogen crystals.

1913 Victor Balthazard, professor of forensic medicine at the Sorbonne, published the first article on individualizing bullet markings.

1915 Leone Lattes, professor at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Turin Italy, developed the first antibody test for ABO blood groups. He first used the test in casework to resolve a marital dispute. He published L’Individualità del sangue nella biologia, nella clinica, nella medicina, legale, the first book dealing not only with clinical issues, but heritability, paternity, and typing of dried stains.

1915 International Association for Criminal Identification, (to become The International Association of Identification (IAI), was organized in Oakland, California.

1916 Albert Schneider of Berkeley, California first used a vacuum apparatus to collect trace evidence.

1918 Edmond Locard first suggested 12 matching points as a positive fingerprint identification.

1920 Charles E. Waite was the first to catalog manufacturing data about weapons.

1920s Georg Popp pioneered the use of botanical identification in forensic work.

1920s Luke May, one of the first American criminalists, pioneered striation analysis in tool mark comparison, including an attempt at statistical validation. In 1930 he published The identification of knives, tools and instruments, a positive
science, in The American Journal of Police Science.

1920s Calvin Goddard, with Charles Waite, Phillip O. Gravelle, and John H Fisher, perfected the comparison microscope for use in bullet comparison.

1921 John Larson and Leonard Keeler designed the portable polygraph.

1923 Vittorio Siracusa, working at the Institute of Legal Medicine of the R. University of Messina, Italy, developed the absorbtion-elution test for ABO blood typing of stains. Along with his mentor, Lattes also performed significant work on the absorbtion-inhibition technique.

1923 In Frye v. United States, polygraph test results were ruled inadmissible. The federal ruling introduced the concept of general acceptance and stated that polygraph testing did not meet that criterion.

1924 August Vollmer, as chief of police in Los Angeles, California, implemented the first U.S. police crime laboratory.

1925 Saburo Sirai, a Japanese scientist, is credited with the first recognition of secretion of group-specific antigens into body fluids other than blood.

1926 The case of Sacco and Vanzetti, which took place in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, was responsible for popularizing the use of the comparison microscope for bullet comparison. Calvin Goddard’s conclusions were upheld when the evidence was reexamined in 1961.

1927 Landsteiner and Levine first detected the M, N, and P blood factors leading to development of the MNSs and P typing systems.

1928 Meüller was the first medico-legal investigator to suggest the identification of salivary amlyase as a presumptive test for salivary stains.

Forensic Science

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