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Lecture 2

Lecture 2 – Historical Overview of Forensic Science

Course Code
ANTH 2235A/B
Eldon Molto

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Lecture 2 Historical Overview of Forensic Science
Relatively new as a formal discipline
Forensic science owes it origins to the first individuals who developed the
principles and techniques needed to identify and compare physical evidence
Historical divisions used in this course are somewhat arbitrary but it is a
means to try and organize the forensic individuation data
Can be an excellent researcher but a poor forensic scientist
Historical Development
o A. Speculative: Antiquity 1806
Called speculative since there was vague utilization on how
biological characteristics could be used to individuate
Early, non-literate populations likely used individuation
methods but these are lost in time
First attempt was an individuation from a sickle in ancient
China, 300 BC
First type trait used in individuation was fingerprints
Many examples of direct and indirect attempts at individuation
but there was no formal recognition of the field
Evidence of miscarriage of justice and the first book written on
the impact of wrongful convictions was written in 1803
o B. Formative: 1807 1947
Defined by first Forensic Science Institute
First forensic science program at the University of Edinburgh
in 1807
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Sherlock Holmes and
popularizes crime fighting and introduces methods yet to be
developed by scientists
Various scientists were using their skills to address issues of
identification but there was little formal organization
Crime Labs appear in France (1910), Canada (1914, 1932,
1937) and USA (1932)
Connected policing agencies by INTERPOL
Legal community admissibility standards put into place, e.g.
the Frye standard
First official criminalistic organization was established in 1929
called the “International Academy of Criminalistics”
Bertillon introduces use of anthropometry
Thomas Dwight is considered the “Father of American Forensic
Dr. Rudolf Virchow: known for work in pathology, among the
first to suggest that hair remains can be used to individuate
perpetrators and victims of crime
Sir Francis Galton: cousin of Charles Darwin, important figure
in the development of fingerprints as a way to identify
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