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The accordance of these attributes, combined with the understandable inability of legal professionals to separate true experts from charlatans, has unfortunately also encouraged a proliferation of self-appointed experts whose motives are based solely in greed and infamy. This may follow, at least in part, from the literary beginnings of criminal investigation.

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In these stories, fictional detectives were able to recreate an entire detailed sequence of events from a few small clues. Shaking his head, Zadig asked if they were referring to a bitch, slightly lame with long ears who had recently had puppies, and a horse with small hoofs, about five feet tall and with a tail three and a half feet long. He was arrested, found guilty, and sentenced to flogging and banishment to Siberia. However, the sentence had scarcely been passed when the missing animals reappeared. Some long but delicate furrows, traced in the sand wherever it was raised between the prints of the paws, showed me that it was a bitch with hanging dugs, which must therefore have had puppies a few days before.

When I noticed that some of the leaves were newly fallen, I deduced that the horse must have touched them, and that he was therefore five feet high also. In scientific endeavors, advances are commonly foretold in fiction before becoming reality. Forensic science is no exception and the influence of detective literature on the development of modern forensic science cannot be underestimated.

Edmund Locard, to whom the concept of transfer is attributed, gives direct credit to Arthur Conan Doyle, innovator of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, as the true instigator of modern forensic science.

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For, in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the detective is repeatedly asked to diagnose the origin of a speck of mud, which is nothing but moist dust. The presence of a spot on a shoe or pair of trousers immediately made known to Holmes the particular quarter of London from which his visitor had come, or the road he had traveled in the suburbs. A spot of clay and chalk originated in Horsham; a peculiar reddish bit of mud could be found nowhere but at the entrance to the post office in Wigmore Street.

Nevertheless, one is not to be persuaded that even with the genius of a Sherlock Holmes there would not be the risk of numerous failures in identification of such spots by merely viewing them at a distance. But even such an inspection may develop something significant and one might profitably re-read from this point of view the stories entitled: A Study in Scarlet, The Five Orange Pips, and The Sign of Four. It is worth pointing out several other references by Conan Doyle, a physician by training, to the importance of physical evidence.

He also points out several attributes of a useful forensic test for blood.


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The old guaiacum test was very clumsy and uncertain. So is the microscopic examination for blood corpuscles.

Introduction to Forensic Science

Now, this appears to act as well whether the blood is old or new. We also see an example here of literary license in deducing kinship from ear traits. Each ear is as a rule quite distinctive and differs from all other ones.


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  5. I had therefore examined the ears in the box with the eyes of an expert and had carefully noted the anatomical peculiarities. Imagine my surprise, then, when on looking at Miss Cushing I perceived that her ear corresponded exactly with the female ear which I had just inspected. It was evident that the victim was a blood relation and probably a very close one.

    Unfortunately, the somewhat pompous and omniscient attitude that draws us to Sherlock Holmes as a literary character becomes a liability when transferred to reality. Humbleness and modesty are generally better companions to a seeker of the truth. Although less commonly recognized in the forensic community, Edgar Allen Poe is credited in literary circles as creator of the detective genre. I had no idea that such individuals did exist outside of stories. Human ears develop into a wide variety of forms.

    Edmund Locard collected photographs of ears from numerous people to demonstrate that each one is unique. That book made me positively ill. I could have done it in twenty-four hours. Lecoq took six months or so. It might be made a textbook for detectives to teach them what to avoid.

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    It is unlikely to be incidental that Poe establishes Dupin in France, the birthplace of Alphones Bertillon, Edmund Locard, and others comprising a veritable forensic dynasty. The results attained by them are not unfrequently surprising, but for the most part, are brought about by simple diligence and activity. When these qualities are unavailing, their schemes fail.

    Vidocq, for example, was a good guesser, and the persevering man. But, without educated thought, he erred continually by the very intensity of his investigations. He impaired his vision by holding the object too close. He might see, perhaps, one or two points with unusual clearness, but in so doing he, necessarily, lost sight of the matter as a whole. Coincidences, in general, are great stumbling-blocks in the way of that class of thinkers who have been educated to know nothing of the theory of probabilities — that theory to which the most glorious objects of human research are indebted for the most glorious of illustration.

    Although not known primarily for detective stories per se, Mark Twain a.

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    Samuel Clemens immediately capitalized on one of the most important developments in police science, individualization using fingerprints. From his descriptions, it is quite clear that Twain had carefully studied the theories and capabilities of fingerprints. At least one source indicates that, in , while the details of the plot were still evolving, Twain acquired a copy of Finger Prints, by Francis Galton, and decided to feature fingerprints in the story Railton, His proficient use of them in this story certainly predates their wide use and general acceptance by several years at least.

    He carried in his coat pocket a shallow box with grooves in it, and in the grooves strips of glass five inches long and three inches wide. Along the lower edge of each strip was pasted a slip of white paper.


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    He asked people to pass their hands through their hair thus collecting upon them a thin coating of the natural oil and then making a thumb-mark on a glass strip, following it with the mark of the ball of each finger in succession. These marks are his signature, his physiological autograph, so to speak, and this autograph can not be counterfeited, nor can he disguise it or hide it away, nor can it become illegible by the wear and mutations of time.

    Interestingly, unlike the other two authors mentioned, Twain reserves his literary license for the story, sticking strictly to the limitations of the technique in his use of fingerprints. Clemens also used fingerprints to further the plot in Life on the Mississippi, in which a thumbprint is used to identify a murderer Thorwald, As we will see in subsequent sections, even the most revered of our forensic forefathers succumbed to an occasional indulgence in overinterpretation. Under the current microscope of ever-increasing scrutiny, the current trend is to step back from leaps of intuition.

    We suggest that a balance between these two extremes might be achieved by interpreting the evidence with appropriate limitations and in the context of the case. Evolution of the Practice As with many applied sciences, the practice of the craft of forensic science evolved undeterred by any restrictions such as fundamental principles or universal concepts.

    In deference to the order of evolution, we will describe the progress of the profession as it proceeded throughout the last couple of centuries, then, in the next section, identify the points at which certain fundamental principles were first discerned.

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    Physical Evidence a. Because friction ridge patterns on fingers are immediately obvious to simple visual examination, they were the first physical aspect of personal identity to be perceived. The complex patterns inherent in fingerprints were noticed even by primitive man, as evidenced by their incorporation in prehistoric paintings and rock carvings Ashbaugh, The use of fingerprints for identification by both the Babylonians and later the Chinese seems clear from the archaeological relics of clay tablets and other legal documents bearing the prints of interested parties Morland, Although several scientists, among them Marcello Malpighi in the 17th century and John Purkinji, in the early 19th century, remarked on the nature of fingerprints, it was not until the late 19th century that their usefulness in establishing individual identity and solving crimes was fully realized Morland, ; Thorwald, ; Moore, The acceptance of fingerprints, however, was preceded by a foray into what is now known as anthropometry.

    Although it seems innately obvious that we all recognize individuals by their unique aspects and proportions, Alphonse Bertillon developed this practice into a science of sorts Thorwald, Based on the work of Adolphe Quetelet, a Belgian statistician best known for his statistical innovations in the social sciences, Bertillon developed a system of body measurements that, if performed with exquisite care, were claimed to be unique to each individual.

    Although initially met with great skepticism, he was finally allowed to put his innovation into practice for the French police force. In , he was given 3 months to prove its worth. Anthropometry, or Bertillonage, was hailed as the latest, greatest crime-solving tool, and quickly spread throughout the world as an accepted and much-used technique. Meanwhile, the credit for recognition of fingerprints as a crime detection tool was being contested by Henry Faulds, a Scottish physician working in Japan, and by Sir William Hershel, a British officer working for the Indian Civil Service.

    Hershel had been using fingerprints since the mids, both as a substitute for written signatures for illiterates and to verify document signatures. It was not lost on him that the indigenous Indian population considered a transfer of body material as a binding contract. However, it fell to Faulds to specifically recognize the possibility that fingerprints at the scene of a crime could identify the offender. Ironically, in one of the first recorded uses of fingerprints to solve a crime, Faulds eliminated an innocent suspect before implicating the perpetrator in a Tokyo burglary Thorwald, In the end, it was left to Sir Francis Galton, first cousin to Charles Darwin, to consolidate the information and publish the first paper dealing with the statistics and significance of fingerprints Galton, Galton also published the first comprehensive book on the nature of fingerprints and their use in solving crime Galton, Interestingly, in this book, Finger Prints, he gives Herschel, rather than Faulds, credit for the initial publication in Nature Cole, As with all physical evidence, the strength of a fingerprint association could not be determined without an estimation of its frequency in the population.

    Although Galton predicted the first theoretical probability of discrimination based on mathematical models, the development of working fingerprint classification systems was pioneered by Juan Vucetich, an Argentinean police researcher, and Sir Edward Henry, another Briton working as an Inspector General in India.

    A standardized classification system enabled the collection and storage of large volumes of fingerprint data that could be organized into searchable databases and shared between institutions. Although a number of workers, from Galton forward, have attempted to introduce mathematical models that would allow for the estimation of the rarity of a fingerprint, none of these has been adopted for use by the field Stoney and Thornton, a.