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Forensic Science History How Science Tracks the Criminal

Forensic Science History How Science Tracks the Criminal

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Published by David
Travel back to a time before CSI. This wonderful article from 1921 is essentially a forensic science call to arms.
Travel back to a time before CSI. This wonderful article from 1921 is essentially a forensic science call to arms.

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Published by: David on May 14, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/25/2012

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(Originally Published in Popular Science 1921)
This article forms part of an initiative to make important, insightful andengaging public domain works freely available. See following links toaccess material that has already been published under this initiative.
 
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The Sherlock Holmes type detective, the man who smells a letter and tellsat once that the murder was committed by a bald headed man wearingeye-glasses, may seem a far-fetched creation of the novelist. His exploitshave been over-drawn for the purposes of fiction, but his methods aresound. Above all things, he is a scientist.In the whole United States there is no Sherlock Holmes - no detective whostudies crimes objectively and dispassionately, just as an entomologiststudies a bug for identification. The Europeans are far in advance of us inthis respect.There are no fewer than four chairs in as many European universitiesoccupied by men who are professors of crime detection, the new sciencecalled "criminalistics." These men have laboratories in which the mindsand methods of criminals are studied. In Graz, Austria, for example, youwill see collections of all the know poisons of Europe, the sword-canes andrifle-canes with which assassins lie in wait to kill, plaster models andaccurately drawn plans of crimes, the skulls of men who have been killedby blows on the head. Students who take the course in criminalistics areexpected to look at a skull and say: "This man was killed by a hammerblow."One graduate caught a murderer who had left behind him nothing but aderby hat in which there was a single hair."Look for a man between forty-five and fifty, partially bald with gray-streaked hair." The police found him.Why did the scientific detective say that? Because by chemical andmicroscopic means it had been determined that there was perspiration inthe hat; one of the hairs was gray, and it was the kind of hair that drops
 
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out a head that is growing bald. All modern science has been drawn uponin this tracking of the criminal.
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The hand of a criminal.
2. & 3.
Plaster casts of footprints made with a booted and a naked foot.
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Imprint of a criminal knee. The scientific detective determined that theimprint was left by striped trousers made in Manchester.
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A certain burglar bit a section out of a piece of cheese and threw therest away. This is a cast of the bitten section. It showed that one tooth wasmissing and it enabled the police to find the burglar.Professor Gross, who founded the chair of criminalistics in the Universityof Graz, could look at the footprints of a man and determine whether hehad been walking or running, whether he had been carrying a package ornot, and even whether he was suffering from a disease. Bertillon, who didfar more than give us the measurement system of classifying convicted

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