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An Introduction to
Forensic Science
Forensic Science Defined:
Forensic Science (or Criminalistics) is
the use of science & technology to
enforce civil & criminal laws.
It is somewhat hard to pin down
exactly what a forensic scientists does
because it includes so many other
areas of science.
Interdisciplinary Relationships
Forensics is a diverse field, and rarely are
forensic scientists “generalists” – people who
specialize in all aspects of forensic science.
Forget what you see on CSI.
Forensic scientists don’t wear pumps to a crime
scene, they rarely interview suspects or make
arrests, and they are not experts in all areas of
forensic investigations. Rather, forensic experts
usually specialize in one or two branches of
forensic investigation.
A botanist may be an expert in
forensic botany. An entomologist may
be an expert in forensic entomology.
Chemists may specialize in forensic
toxicology or arson and bomb analysis.
People with expertise in physics may
focus on firearms and ballistics or
blood spatter analysis.
Why do we look to science
for assistance in our legal
Increasing Crime Rates
New or Changed Laws
New Crimes
New Weapons (*see next slide)
Response to Public Concerns
Response to Law Enforcement Concerns
New Weapons?
Applying Science to Law
 Applying
science to the
Criminal Justice System
depends on a scientist’s ability
to supply accurate & objective
information that reflects the
events that have occurred at a
A Forensic Scientist
Examines the associations between
people, places, things and events involved
in crimes
 AKA criminalistics
–The examination of physical evidence
Evidence: anything that tends to establish OR disprove a
– Testimony
– Objects
– documents
Forensic Scientist
Job description
– Study evidence found at the crime
 ID object, its origin, and how it got to the
crime scene
– Expert witness
 At trial, present data, weighs evidence,
gives impartial opinion in court
– Researcher
 Performs scientific research and trains
other scientists
History & Development of
Forensic Science
When in Rome…
“Forensic” comes from the Latin word
“forensis” meaning "of or before the forum.”
During the time of the Romans, a criminal
charge meant presenting the case before
the public.
Both the person accused of the crime & the
accuser would give speeches based on
their side of the story.
The individual with the best argument
would determine the outcome of the case.
The ancient world lacked standardized
forensic practices, which aided
criminals in escaping punishment.
Criminal investigations and trials relied
on forced confessions and
witness testimony. However ancient
sources do contain several accounts of
techniques that foreshadow concepts
in forensic science that were
developed centuries later.
Origin of Modern Forensic
The Chinese book Hsi Duan Yu (The
Washing Away of Wrongs), which
appeared in 1248, provided the first
association of medicine and law.
– The book offered useful advice, such as
distinguishing drowning (water in the
lungs) and strangulation (pressure marks
on the throat and damaged cartilage in
the neck) from death by natural causes.
Origin of Modern Forensic
In the 16th-century Europe medical
practitioners in army and university
settings began to gather information
on the cause and manner of death.
Ambroise Paré, a French
army surgeon, systematically studied
the effects of violent death on internal
Origin of Modern Forensic
One of the first celebrated cases in
forensic science involved the 'father of
toxicology', Mathieu Orfila (1787-1853),
who worked in Paris and testified in an
arsenic poisoning criminal trial in 1840.
Origin of Modern Forensic
Orfila and others had developed a
chemical test to detect arsenic, the
poison of choice for the period
because the symptoms, violent
stomach pains and vomiting, were
similar to cholera (a common disease
of the times) and often went
Origin of Modern Forensic
Henry Goddard at Scotland
Yard pioneered the use of bullet
comparison in 1835. He noticed a flaw in
the bullet that killed the victim, and was
able to trace this back to the mold that
was used in the manufacturing process.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
 Mystery
author in late 1800’s
 Popularized
scientific crimedetection methods through his
fictional character ‘Sherlock
Holmes' techniques could be looked
upon, then, as the forerunner of
modern forensic sciences:
 The use of footprints, shoe prints,
horseshoe prints, carriage wheel
tracks, and bicycle tracks to identify
actions at a crime scene (A Study in Scarlet,
"The Adventure of the Silver Blaze", "The Adventure of the Priory
Origin of Modern Forensic
The French police officer, Alphonse
Bertillon was the first to apply the
anthropological technique
of anthropometry to law enforcement,
thereby creating an identification system
based on physical measurements.
Before that time, criminals could only be
identified by name or photograph.
the scientific study of the measurements
and proportions of the human body
Bertillon developed a system to distinguish
one individual person from another based
on certain body measurements.
Francis Galton
of Fingerprinting”
 Developed
fingerprinting as a
way to uniquely identify
Leone Lattes
“Father of Bloodstain Identification”
He developed a procedure for
determining the blood type (A, B, AB,
or O) of a dried blood stain.
Calvin Goddard
“Father of Ballistics”
Developed the technique to examine
bullets, using a comparison
microscope, to determine whether or
not a particular gun fired the bullets.
Albert Osborn
“Father of Document Examination”
His work led to the acceptance of
documents as scientific evidence by the
Walter McCrone
of Microscopic Forensics”
He developed & applied his
microscope techniques to examine
evidence in countless court cases.
Hans Gross
of Forensic Publications”
Wrote the book on applying all the
different science disciplines to the
field of criminal investigation.
Edmond Locard
“Father of the Crime Lab”
In 1910, he started the 1st crime lab in an
attic of a police station in Paris, France.
With few tools, he quickly became known
world-wide to forensic scientists & criminal
investigators & eventually founded the
Institute of Criminalistics in France.
His most important contribution was the
“Locard’s Exchange Principle”
Locard’s Exchange Principle
“Every Contact Leaves a Trace.”
He believed that every criminal can be
connected to a crime by particles carried
from the crime scene.
When a criminal comes in contact with an
object or person, a cross-transfer of
evidence occurs.
J. Edgar Hoover
“Father of the FBI” - Director of Federal Bureau
of Investigation during the 1930’s
Hoover's leadership spanned 48 yrs & 8 presidential
administrations. His reign covered Prohibition, the Great
Depression, WWII, the Korean War, the Cold War, & the
Vietnam War.
He organized a national laboratory to offer forensic
services to all law enforcement agencies in the U.S.
– He exceeded & abused his authority with unjustified
investigations & illegal wiretaps based on political beliefs rather
than suspected criminal activity
– FBI directors are now limited to 10-year terms
Applications of Forensic Science
Identification of Criminals or Victims
Solving Mysteries
Past crimes (unsolved or wrongfully
Cause, Location, Time of Death
Paternity cases
Cyber crimes
Corporate Crimes (Enron)
Voice Analysis
When the Army unearthed more than a 1,000
mortar rounds from a WW2 training site, they
enlisted a Forensic Science Lab to determine
which were live munitions & which were