History of Forensic Science

Pre-700 BC – Fingerprints are used on clay tablets for business transaction in ancient Babylon.
287-212 BC – Archimedes talks about being able to prove the crown was not made of gold using density and buoyancy.
250 BC – Erasistratus, an ancient Greek physician, discovers that his patients’ pulse rates increase when they are telling lies. Allegedly the first lie detection test.
1235 – Story of Sung Tzu and the bloody sickle. A murder was committed using a sickle. All those in the village who owned a sickle were made to bring them out and lay them in the sun. Eventually flies gathered on one particular sickle, identifying it as the murder weapon.
1248 – The Chinese book His Duan Yu (The Washing Away of Wrongs) describes how to distinguish drowning from strangulation. The first recorded application of medicine to help solve crimes.
1302 – Bartolomeo da Varignana performs a medicolegal autopsy in the case of suspected murder of a nobleman.
1447 – The missing teeth of the French Duke of Burgundy are used to identify remains.
1590 – The first microscope is developed.
1609 – Francois Damelle publishes the first treatise on systematic document examination.
1658 – English physician, biologist, philosopher and historian Sir Thomas Browne discovers adipocere. What he describes as a fatty, waxy, soap-like substance formed on human corpses buried in moist, air-free places.
1686 – Professor of anatomy Marcello Malpighi notes I his treaties the ridges, spirals and loops in fingerprints.
1775 – Karl Wilhelm Scheele discovers he can change arsenious oxide into arsenious acid, which in contact with zinc produces arsine. This later plays a great part in the forensic detection of arsenic.
1786 – John Toms of Lancaster, England is convicted of murder on the basis of a torn wad of paper found in a pistol matching a remaining piece in his pocket. One of the first documented uses of physical matching.
1800s – English naturalist Thomas Bewick uses engravings of his own fingerprints to identify books he publishes.
1810 – In return for a suspension of arrest and jail sentence, Eugene Francois Vidocq makes a deal with the police to establish the first detective force, the Surete of Paris.
1810 – In Germany, the first documented use of question document analysis occurs. A chemical test for a particular ink dye is applied to a document known as the Konigin Hanschritt.
1813 – Mathiew Orfila publishes his toxicology book and is considered the father of forensic toxicology.
1817 – T. Bateman first describes senile ecchymoses when he notes dark purple blotches and determines that they are due to the extravasation of blood into the dermal tissues.
1823 – Anatomy professor John Evangelist Purkinji publishes his thesis discussing 9 fingerprint patterns.
1828 – William Nicol invents the polarizing light microscope (Nicol Prism).
1829 – Sir Robert Christison publishes Treatise on Poisons, which is for many years regarded as the standard work on toxicology.
1829 – Thomas Bell first describes ‘pink teeth’ and assumes they are pathognomonic of hanging or drowning.
1830s – Adolphe Quetelet of Belgium proves the foundation of Bertillon’s work by stating his belief that no two human bodies are exactly alike.
1831 – Leuchs first notes amylase activity in human saliva.
1835 – Henry Goddard of Scotland Yard first uses bullet comparison to catch a murderer. The comparison was based in a visible flaw in the bullet, traced back to a mold.
1836 – English chemist James Marsh develops a test for the presence of arsenic in tissues, known as the Marsh Test, and is the first to use toxicology in a jury trial.
1839 – Dr John Davy recounts experiments with dead soldiers using a mercury thermometer. One of the first attempts to determine time since death using body temperature.
1839 – H. Baynard publishes the first reliable procedures for the microscopic detection of sperm, and notes the different microscopic characteristics of various different substrate fabrics.
1851 – Jean Servais Stas, a chemistry professor from Brussels, is the first to successfully identify vegetable poisons in body tissues.
1851 – Britain passes an arsenic act, attempting to control availability of the poison, which is commonly being used in murder.
1853 – Ludwig Teichmann of Poland develops the first microscopic crystal test for haemoglobin using hemin crystals.
1854 – English physician Massox develops dry plate photography. This was used in photographaing inmates for prison records.
1855 – Ambroise August Tardieu first draws attention to petechial haemorrhages occurring in asphyxial deaths.
1856 – Sir William Herschel uses thumbprints on documents both as a substitute for written signatures and to verify document signatures.
1862 – Dutch scientist J. Izaak Van Deen develops a presumptive blood test using the West Indian shrub guaiac.
1863 – Taylor and Wilkes write a paper on the determination of time since death from fall in body temperature, introducing many current concepts.
1863 – German scientist Schonbein first discovers the ability of haemoglobin to oxidise hydrogen peroxide, making it foam. This results in the first presumptive test for blood.
1864 – Odelbrecht first advocates the use of photography for the identification of criminals and the documentation of evidence and crime scenes.
1877 – Thomas Taylor suggests that markings of the palms of hands and tips of fingers could be used for identification in criminal cases.
1879 – German pathologist Rudolph Virchow is one of the first to study hair and recognise its limitations.
1880 – Henry Faulds of Scotland publishes a paper suggesting fingerprints at the scene of a crime could identify the offender. Faulds uses fingerprints to eliminate an innocent suspect and indicate a perpetrator in a Tokyo burglary.
1880 – Burman uses temperature graphs to determine time since death.
1882 – Gilbert Thompson puts his own thumbprint on wage chits to safeguard himself from forgeries.
1883 – Alphonse Bertillon identifies the first repeat offender based on his invention of anthropometry.
1887 – Arthur Conan Doyle publishes his first Sherlock Holmes story.
1889 – Forensic medicine professor Alexandre Lacassagne attempts to individualise bullets to a gin barrel, based on the number of lands and grooves.
1891 – Austrian Hans Gross publishes Criminal Investigations, the first description of the uses of physical evidence in solving crimes.
1892 – Sir Francis Galton publishes his book “Fingerprints”, establishing the individuality of fingerprints and a first classification system.
1892 – Juan Vucetich develops the fingerprint classification system that comes to be used in Latin America.
1894 – Alfred Dreyfus of France is convicted of treason based on a mistaken handwriting identification of Bertillon.
1896 – Sir Edward Richard Henry develops the print classification system that would later be used in Europe and North America.
1898 – Forensic chemist Paul Jesrich takes photomicrographs of two bullets to compare and individualise the minutae.
1901 – Karl Landsteiner discovers human blood group. Max Richter adapts the technique to type stains.
1901 – German immunologist Paul Uhlenhuth develops the precipiten test for species.
1901 – Sir Edward Richard Henry is appointed head of Scotland Yard and forces fingerprint identification to replace anthropometry.
1901 – Henry P. DeForrest pioneers the first systematic use of fingerprints in the US by the New York Civil Service Commission.
1901 – Leone Lattes discovers that blood can be grouped into different categories.
1902 – Professor R. A. Reiss sets up one of the first academic curricula in forensic sciences.
1902 – R. Fischer describes the system of furrows on the red part of human lips, which is later to form a basic for cheiloscopy.
1903 – The NY States Prison system begins the first systematic use of fingerprints in the US for criminal identification.
1903 – At a Kansas penitentiary, new inmate Will West is initially confused with a resident convict using anthropometry.
1904 – Oskar and Rudolf Adler develop a presumptive test for blood based on benzidine.
1904 – Revenstorf conceives the idea that diatoms could be used as a test of distinguishing ante-mortem from post-mortem drowning.
1904 – Georg Popp uses geological evidence in a criminal case for the first time.
1905 – US president Theodore Roosevelt establishes the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
1910 – Edmond Locard establishes the first police crime laboratory in Lyon.
1910 – Professor of medicine Victor Balthazard publishes the first comprehensive hair stuffy.
1910 – Albert S. Osborne publishes Questioned Documents.
1912 – Massaeo Takayama develops another microscopic crystal test for haemoglobin using hemochromogen crystals.
1913 – J. J. Thomson builds the first mass spectrometer, known as the hyperbola spectrograph.
1913 – Victor Balthazard publishes the first article on individualising bullet markings.
1915 – Professor Leone Lattes develops the first antibody test for ABO blood types.
1915 – The International Association for Criminal Identification was organised in Oakland, California. It later becomes the International Association of Identification (IAI).
1916 – Albert Schneider of Berkley, California first uses a vacuum apparatus to collect trace evidence.
1918 – Edmond Locard suggests 12 matching points as a positive fingerprint identification.
1920s – Georg Popp pioneers the use of botanical identification in forensics.
1920s – American criminalist Luke May pioneers striation analysis in tool mark comparison.
1920s – Calvin Goddard, with others, perfects the comparison microscope for use in bullet comparison.
1920 – Charles E. Waite is the first to catalogue manufacturing data about weapons.
1920 – Edmond Locard announces the Locard’s Exchange Principle.
1921 – John Larson and Leonard Keeler design the portable polygraph.
1921 – Schuller suggests frontal sinuses can be used for identification.
1923 – Vittorio Siracusa develops the absorption-elution tests for ABO blood typing of stains.
1923 – In the case Frye v. US, polygraph test results are ruled inadmissible.
1924 – August Vollmer of LA, California implements the first US crime laboratory.
1925 – Japanese scientist Saburo Sirai is credited with the first recognition of secretion of group-specific antigens into body fluids other than blood.
1927 – Landsteiner and Levine first detect the M, N and P blood factors leading to the development of the MNSs and P typing systems.
1928 – Meuller is the first medico-legal investigator to suggest the identification of salivary amylase as a presumptive test for salivary stains.
1929 – Japanese scientist K. I. Yosida conducts the first comprehensive investigation establishing the existence of serological isoantibodies in body fluids other than blood.
1931 – Franz Josef Holzer develops the absorption-inhibition AB typing techniques that became the basis of that commonly used in forensic laboratories.
1932 – The FBI crime laboratory is created.
1933 – Teodoro Gonzales introduces the diphenyl-amine test (or Dermal Nitrate in the US to detect GSR.
1935 – Dutch physicist Frits Zernike invents the first interference contrast microscope.
1935 – Establishment of the first British forensics lab, in Hendon.
1937 – Walter Specht develops the chemiluminescent reagent luminal as a presumptive test for blood.
1937 – Holzer publishes the first paper addressing the usefulness of secretor status for forensic applications.
1938 – M. Polonovski and M. Jayle first identify haptoglobin.
1940 – Vincent Hnizda was probably the first to analyse ignitable fluid.
1940 – Landsteiner and A. S. Weiner first described Rh blood groups.
1940s – Dental records are compared with teeth from corpses.
1941 – Murray Hill initiates the study voiceprint identification.
1945 – Frank Lundquist develops the acid phosphatase test for semen.
1946 – Mourant first describes the Lewis blood group system.
1946 – R. R. Race describes the Kell blood group system.
1950 – Max Frei-Sulzer develops the tape lift method of collecting trace evidence.
1950 – M. Cutbush and colleagues first describe the Duffy blood group system.
1950 – The American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS) is formed.
1950 – August Vollmer of California establishes the school of criminology and UC Berkley.
1950 – Max Frei-Sulzer develops the tape-life method of collecting trace evidence.
1951 – F. H. Allen and colleagues first describe the Kidd blood grouping system.
1953 – Kirk publishes Crime Investigation, one of the first comprehensive criminalistics and crime investigation texts that encompassed theory in addition to practice.
1953 – James Watson and Francis Crick publish a landmark paper identifying the structure of DNA.
1954 – R. F. Borkenstein invents the Breathalyzer for field sobriety testing.
1955 – De Saram publishes measurements of temperature I cases obtained from executed prisoners. The papers are considered landmarks in determination of time since death from body cooling.
1957 – Mocker and Stewart develop skeletal growth stages.
1958 – A. S. Weiner and colleagues introduce the use of H-lectin to determine positively O blood type.
1959 – Hirshfeld first identifies the polymorphic nature of group specific component (Gc).
1959 – Harrison and Gilroy introduce a qualitative colorimetric chemical test to detect the presence of barium, antimony and lead on the hands of individuals who fired a firearm.
1960s – Maurice Muller adapts the Ouchterlony antibody-antigen diffusion test for precipiten testing to determine species.
1960 – Lucas describes the application of gas chromatography to the identification of petroleum products in the forensic laboratory and discusses potential limitations of the brand identity of gasoline.
1963 – D. A. Hopkinson and colleagues first identify the polymorphic nature of erythrocytes acid phosphatase (EAP).
1964 – R. A. Fildes and H. Harris first identify the polymorphic nature of red cell adenylate cryclase (AK).
1966 – Brian J. Culliford and Brian Wraxall develop the immunoelectrophoretic technique for haptoglobin typing in bloodstains.
1967 – Culliford, of the British Metropolitan Police Laboratory, initiates the development of gel-based methods to test for isoenzymes in dried bloodstains.
1968 – Spencer and colleagues first identify the polymorphic nature of red cell adenosine deaminase (ADA).
1971 – Culliford publishes The Examination and Typing of Bloodstains in the Crime Laboratory.
1973 – Hopkinson and colleagues first identify the polymorphic nature of esterase D (ESD).
1974 – The detection of gunshot residue using scanning electron microscopy with electron dispersive X-rays technology is developed at Aerospace Corporation.
1975 – J. Kompf and colleague first identify the polymorphic nature of rec cell glyoxlase (GLO).
1975 – The Federal rules of Evidence are enacted as a congressional statute, based on the relevancy standard in which scientific evidence that is deemed more prejudicial than probative may not be admitted.
1976 – Zoro and Hadley first use GC-MS for forensic purposes.
1977 – The FBI introduces the beginnings of its Automated Fingerprint Idrntification System (AFIS) with first computerised scans of fingerprints.
1977 – Fuseo Matsummur notices his own fingerprints developing on microscope slides, and relates the information to co-worker Masato Soba, who would later be the first to develop latent prints using Superglue fuming.
1978 – Brian Wraxall and Mark Stolorow develop the multisystem method for testing the PGM, ESD, and GLO isoenzyme systems simultaneously. They also develop methods for typing blood serum proteins.
1978 – ESDA (electrostatic document analysis) is developed for obtaining document impressions.
1980 – American geneticists discover a region of DNA that does not hold any genetic information and is extremely variable between individuals.
1984 – Sir Alec Jeffreys discovers a method of identifying individuals from DNA – Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP), dubbed DNA Fingerprinting.
1985 – UK police first use forensic DNA profiling.
1986 – Kerry Mullis discovers Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method of replicating particular regions of a DNA molecule.
1986 – DNA is used for the first time to solve a crime. Jeffreys uses DNA profiling to identify Colin Pitchfork as the murderer of two young girls in the English Midlands.
1986 – The human genetic group at Cetus Corporation develop the PCR technique for a number of clinical and forensic applications, resulting in the development of the first commercial PCR typing kit specifically for forensic use.
1987 – DNA profiling is introduced for the first time in a US criminal court.
1988 – Milestone papers are published introducing a novel procedure for the analysis of drugs in whole blood by homogenous enzyme immunoassay (EMIT).
1991 – The Forensic Science Service becomes an executive body.
1991 – Walsh Automation Inc., launch development of an automated imaging system called the Integrated Ballistics Identification System for comparison of the marks left on fired bullets, cartridge cases, and shell casings.
1992 – The FBI helps develop Drugfire, an automated imaging system to compare marks left on cartridge cases and shell casings.
1992 – Thomas Caskey can colleagues publish the first paper suggesting the use of short tandem repeats for forensic DNA analysis.
1995 – The world’s first national DNA database commences operations in the UK.
1996 – The FBI introduce computerised searches of AFIS.
1996 – Mitochondria DNA evidence is used in court for the first time in the US.
1996 – Police establish the National Criminal DNA Database in the UK.
1998 – An FBI DNA database, NIDIS, is put into practice.
2007 – The Forensic Science Service launches the UK’s first online footwear coding and detection management system, Footwear Intelligence Technology.

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