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The use of forensic techniques has been used throughout history to solve crimes; initiating from the early existence of man, Forensic Science was intact in its simplest forms and kept on expanding throughout the prehistoric era. Prehistoric forensics is also considered as the building blocks of modern forensic techniques. In the first instance a case indicating the use of forensics was reported in ancient Rome circa in 1000 A.D. An attorney Quintilian used a handprint full of blood to prove that a blind man had been wrongly accused for the murder of his own mother.
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In addition the first Forensic Autopsy laid out the foundations of forensics and was first executed on Julius Caesar by the Roman physician, Antistius in 44 BC. Subsequently this Autopsy revealed that Caesar was subjected to 23 stab wounds; only one of which had proven fatal. Thus assembling the basis of Pathology and enabling an insight into the cause of death of the deceased. Additionally acknowledgement of the importance of a corpse in solving a crime was recognised and awareness of the causes of death came into question; aiding the development of this area of forensics.
During prehistoric times around 700 BC the very first fingerprints were conducted by pressing a handprint into clay and rock. Archaeologists in a province of Canada known as Nova Scotia revealed an ancient drawing, outlining the detailed ridge patterns of fingerprints and a hand. In accumulation the ancient Babylonians developed fingerprints on clay tablets for use as business transactions and identification. Also during the 7th Century BC an Arabic merchant named Solemn affixed the fingerprints of a mortgager to a bill; which would be transferred over to the lender and would be documented as legal proof of a valid debt. In addition the Chinese also used this technique to affix fingerprints into clay sculptures to be used as a form of identity. Due to no classification system and common misconceptions of identity meant that this was a vital discovery; therefore fingerprints were considered as documented evidential proof in business.
Archimedes between (287-212 BC) displayed the first recorded account of density and resistance by examining water displacement; enabling them to be able to ascertain that a crown was being falsely portrayed as gold. Analysis of density and toughness of the crown determined that it was not made of gold.
Furthermore in 250 BC an ancient Greek physician, called Erasistratus, found that when a person was not telling the truth, the pulse rate of that person increased. Consequently this laid out the principles for the very first lie detection test; modern day lie detection is known as a polygraph and based on the changes in pulse rate/heart, galvanic skin response GSR (sweating), blood pressure and vast or sudden changes in the sympathetic nervous system.
Forensics during the 1000- 1700s
During this time period over 700 years, mankind discovered vast amounts of knowledge in all the diverse fields of forensics. Acknowledgment and attention to detail increased towards the end of the 16th century so much so that documents had been published showing the fine detail of fingerprints. Henceforth this aided the world of forensics in successfully developing and recognising individual human characteristics.
In 1000 A.D. crime scene investigation, advanced to an extent where an attorney Quintillion was able to identify and examine hand prints covered in blood, to prove that a blind man had been trapped for the murder of his own mother.
Additionally the Chinese went on further, in 1248 AD the development of the first written documentation for identifying distinctive crime via a book was published in china. In ancient China clay seals were found to consist of thumbprints. Subsequently this was one of the first books published named Hsi Duan Yu, which means The Washing Away of Wrong. This book consisted of medical knowledge which helped establish the differences in the recognition of crimes such as drowning and strangling. Consequently this book is considered as the first recorded evidence combining medicine to crime solving practices. It also consists of recorded information that outlines the basis of forensic pathology. The book “His Duan Yu” aided the development and enhancement of pathology and is still is considered as a valuable resource.
In 1249 an Italian surgeon Hugh of Lucca took an oath as a medical expert in the city of Bologna; he gained fame for his comprehension regarding the antiseptic treatment of wounds. More than 50 years later in the year 1302 an Italian named Bartolommeo da Varignana from the same city of Bologna carried out a medical autopsy regarding a case of a murder suspect, involved in the murder of a noble man.
Nearly a century and half later in 1447 a body was identified as that of Charles French Duke of Burgundy from the absent teeth which were the clue in solving the murder; his body consisted of teeth which had been knocked out whilst he was still alive and recognition of these missing teeth and scars gave an indication to his identity. Therefore this case can be considered as one of the first indications of Forensic Odontology.
The French have also played a remarkable role in discoveries through the years. A French Surgeon from the year 1509-1590, called Amboise Pare wrote and published reports in court; thus producing a book which is deliberated as being the first conclusive test on legal medicine.
During the 1600’s the world of science had opened up with an expansion of discoveries which were taking place at a phenomenal rate. In 1601 the first treatise on systematic document examination was published in France by a French man called Francois Damelle. This document was written before the developments of inks and paper. However comparison of handwriting could be subjected to analysis and identified. Modern day handwriting analysis is conducted by a Forensic Document Examiner, who detects forgeries e.g. signatures. Moreover a Forensic Document Examiner has the task of examining documents created using photocopiers and fax machines; this is done by examining the ink and paper alongside the handwriting and its other foreign inclusions.
Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) was an English Physician and Historian who acknowledged that a substance known as Adipocere was formed on the body of the deceased. He described this substance as fatty, waxy and soap like. It also came into recognition that Adipocere was formed on human corpses; mostly buried in moist and air free places. Persistently this substance was under analysis and a French chemist known as Antoine François (1755-1809) discovered the chemical speciality of Adipocere whilst examining bodies; recognising its chemical similarity to soap. Subsequently this discovery was of huge progression dating back to prehistoric times (44 BC) where Antistius found that only one stab wound proved fatal during the killing of Julius Caesar. Therefore understanding of pathology was growing at an astounding rate and people started discovering the solution to crimes via science instead of relying on witchcraft.
Also in 1686 Marcello Malpighi a professor of anatomy at the University of Bologna went on further to allow documentation of the different characteristics of fingerprints e.g. whorls, ridges, loops and spirals. Although Malpighi documented the patterns of fingerprints he did not mention there importance in the use of crime detection and how they are part of an individual’s characteristics; hence the vital importance they play when used as identification methods. However a layer of skin approximately 1.8mm thick is named after him and is known as the Malpighi layer.
A crucial discovery was made in 1775 by Karl Wilhelm Scheele. He discovered that it was possible to change Arsenious Oxide into Arsenious acid; when reacted with zinc it produces arsine. Subsequently this procedure proved to be of vital importance in forensic detection of arsenic.
One of the first uses of documented physical matching was established in 1786, when John Toms an Englishman was convicted of murder. Evidential proof showed a torn wad of paper found in a pistol matching another piece in his pocket.
Enhancement of Forensics during the 1800- 1900s
In history this time period is considered as the growth and spread of Forensic Science. In the early 1800s where ideas were still at large and developing an English Naturalist named Thomas Bewick used his own fingerprints to identify the books he published. He did this by engraving them in order to identify the books he published. Henceforth astounding research on fingerprints came about in 1823 when Professor John evangelist published his proposition which consisted of the discussion of 9 fingerprint patterns. However there was no mention of use in personal identification.
In 1810 Germany, the first recorded documented analysis was undertaken. Also a chemical test for a specific ink dye is applied to a document named as the Konigin Hanschritt.
Mathieu Bonaventure published the Traite des Poisons in 1813 and was a professor at the University of Paris who specialised in medicinal and forensic chemistry. Considered as the father of modern toxicology due to his significant contributions he also aided the development of presumptive blood detection tests to indicate the presence of blood. Furthermore he was credited for his attempt to identify blood samples using the microscope. Similarly in 1817 Bateman described senile ecchymosis as he records dark purple blotches to determine that they are present due to extravasation of blood into specific tissues in the body known was dermal tissues.
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Similarly professor of Forensic Medicine in the year 1829 called Sir Robert Christenson published his treatise on poisons. This piece of publication was well thought out and regarded as the standard work of toxicology written in the English language. A year later in 1830 Lambert Adolph a statistician from Belgium outlined the foundations for Bertillon’s work by putting forward his belief that no human bodies are exactly alike. Persistently in 1831 Erhard Friedrich Leuchs describes the first Activity in human saliva on starch via the action of salivary ptyalin which is known as amylase.
The year 1835 bought about the recognition of a field of forensics known as ballistics; hence the founded comparison by Henry Goddard on a visible flaw in the bullet revealed that it originated from a mold. Thus outlining the first use of bullet comparison to catch a murderer was conducted. Likewise in 1836 an English chemist known as James Marsh progresses and identifies a test for the presence of arsenic in tissues. This was later known as the Marsh Test and is known to be very sensitive for detecting as little as 0.02 mg arsenic. It is also known to be the first test of toxicology to be used in a jury trial.
Consistently throughout the 1800s many vital discoveries were made Dr John Davy in 1839 was involved in one of the first attempts in investigating time of death. He used a mercury thermometer to experiment on dead soldiers to acknowledge body temperature since the time of death. Furthermore during this year the first well set out procedures for the microscopic detection of sperm and the different microscopic characterisation of the different substrate fabrics. Also in 1840 Mathieu Bonaventure applied the marsh test correctly and discovers arsenic in the corpse. After this a polish anatomist called Ludic Karol initiated a document on the crystallisation of certain organic compounds present in blood. After this the test which indicated the presence of blood on the cloths of a suspect and various items became broadly used in forensic science.
During the mid-1800s, Richard Leach in 1855 established the use of dry plate photography for keeping prison records via photographing inmates. In addition Amboise August attracts attention to petechial haemorrhages which take place in asphyxia deaths. Modern research proved this wrong; however the belief is so persistent that many forensic pathologists still find this hard to discard. In 1863 the German scientist Christian Friedrich first discovers the capability of haemoglobin to oxidize hydrogen peroxide making it foam aiding the presumptive test for the presence of blood. Additionally towards the end of the year 1863 Taylor and Wilkes wrote a paper on the acknowledgement of time of death by distinguishing the fall in body temperature. Successful completion of this bought about terms and concepts such as the initial temperature, core, heat gradient and also the effect of insulation.
The fingerprint discovery enhanced in 1870 when Henry Faulds took up a study involving skin furrows after noticing fingerprints on specimens of prehistoric pottery. Faulds not only acknowledged the importance of fingerprints for individualisation purposes but also planned a method of classification. Later in 1880 Faulds becomes the first person to recognize the significance of latent prints left at crime scenes. On the same agenda Argentinian Juan Venetic established the first criminal fingerprint id system; identifying a woman for the murder of her two sons.
In the late 1800s Sir Francis Galton publishes his book on fingerprints outlining the first classification system. Galton identifies fingerprints by observing individuality and permanence still in use today it is known as Galton’s Details. Progressively Sir Edward Richard develops this print classification and is later used in Europe.
Towards the early 1900s discoveries were enhancing and the use of Forensic Science began its journey across the globe, diverging into various sectors. Human blood groups were first discovered by Karl Landsteiner in 1901; this was later adapted to be used as a validation method on type stains. Subsequently in 1902 Henry Forrest creates the first systematic use of fingerprints and later in 1903 the New York State Prison uses fingerprints for criminal identification.
A breakthrough in the world of forensics and increased understanding was developed when the L’enquete criminelle was published by Dr Edmund Locard a great professor within the forensics field who stated that “every contact leaves a trace”, Dr Edmund- Locard, (1904). Subsequently this statement became known as ‘Locard’s Exchange principal’. The statement in a wider sense implied that every time an individual comes in contact with a place or another individual, something of that individual is left behind at the place; thus something of that place is taken away with the individual.
During the course of the 1900s the development of blood groups, criminal identification system and also Gunshot residue tests such as the diphenylamine were developing at an astonishing rate. The mid 1950’s show signs of a huge awareness of attention to detail this can be seen when Max Frei-Sulzer discovered the tape lifting method for collecting trace evidence. Many Forensic Techniques began developing such as Gas Chromatography and also identification of petroleum brands came into question. A decade later in 1960 Brian Cull-ford of the British Metropolitan Police Laboratory (BMPL) starts gel based methods to test for enzymes in dry bloodstains and other bodily fluids.
Over next 40 years Forensic Science had become so advanced that many of the techniques are still used today; a technique known as Scanning Electron Microscopy was developed in 1974 at the Aerospace Corporation which involves the use of electron dispersive X-rays technology and is still in use today. On the other hand a handy mechanism known as the Automated Fingerprint Identification System was introduced by the FBI in 1977, providing the first computerized fingerprints. Other techniques such as Superglue fuming came under analysis and many techniques developed regarding fingerprints. UK police also initiate Forensic DNA profiling and later solves the Colin Pitchfork murder case.
In 1991 development of a system known as Integrated Ballistics Identification System was put into practice with Drug Fire for automated imaging and comparison of marks left on fired bullets etc.
Simultaneously many databases were being established. In 1996 the Police National Computer (PNC) was introduced in the UK and the FBI in 1998 released a DNA database known as NIDIS. Up until the present time development of forensic databases is still at large such as the 2007 Footwear coding and detection management system developed in the UK; assisting in detection of footwear marks found at crime scenes and comparing them with a controlled sample stored on the Footwear Database. Many modern techniques such as ESLA and Casting prove useful and efficient in the detection of footwear marks. Similarly the fingerprinting database has enhanced to an extent where it stores over 18.6 million set of ten-prints and the techniques used to retrieve prints are quick and efficient such as Florescent Magnetic and bi-chromatic powders, Superglue Fuming, Ninhydrin and Iodine fuming.
Hair analysis has developed by means of Mass Spectroscopy, recently in April 2011 a new laser technique has revealed that separating out parts of hair samples can answer valuable questions about a person such as; what they have consumed recently including clues which can aid forensic scientists to understand what led them to behave in such a way.
One of technology’s most advanced discoveries is the PNC which immensely aided forensics since 1996 as it contains multiple databases including Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) which can detect cars without insurance, stolen and disqualified drivers. The PNC is available 24 hours a day and can produce results within minutes. Earlier this year in February 2012 the police were provided with blackberry smart phones which enclose a fingerprint scanning device enabling them to scan fingerprints and cross link these through the PNC to establish a match; thus painting a clearer and wider image of the suspect’s true identity.
Additionally Police use a technique known as the Face Building System it works by enabling the victim to identify the perpetrator by putting forward many different facial characteristics; helping build an image of an offender for public appeal. Advancing technology in the near future may take forensics to a whole new level with a new Face Recognition System which could be used by police officers to scan faces and cross link them to the Mug shots stored on the PNC; drastically reducing the presence of Identity Freud in the UK.
Till the present day forensics has proven of immense use, it’s phenomenal and rapid development through the ages has led to numerous crimes being solved. Vast amount of detail that has arisen through the years, allows the expansion of forensic fields which enable them to split into unique and diverse divisions e.g. Forensic Odontology. This is the study of dental evidence such as bite marks or even human remains in order to establish the identity of an individual. During this modern era; astonishingly increasing technology proceeds to thrive the success of crime detection and unravels many forensic cases at a remarkable rate; making the jobs of criminals considerably harder.
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