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What is Criminalistics?

Although the term criminalistics is often used interchangeably with the term forensic science, it is in fact as the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) acknowledge a distinct discipline that operates along with other disciplines under the umbrella of forensic science.

According to the American-Board-of-Criminalistics, it can be defined as that profession and scientific discipline directed to the recognition, identification, individualization, and evaluation of physical evidence by application of the physical and natural sciences to law-science matters.

In outlining the type of work criminalists undertake the AAFS note that 'criminalists analyze, compare, identify, and interpret physical evidence' and that 'The main role of the criminalist is to objectively apply the techniques of the physical and natural sciences to examine physical evidence'. In relation to physical evidence, The following passage form the AAFS demonstrates the diverse nature of the discipline.

'Physical evidence may be anything: evidence so small that a microscope is needed to see it, or as large as a truck. It may be as subtle as a whiff of a flammable gas at an arson scene or as obvious as a pool of blood at a homicide scene. The enormous range of material challenges the ingenuity of the criminalist who examines and identifies hair, fibers, blood, seminal and body fluid stains, alcohol, drugs, paint, glass, botanicals, soil, flammables, and safe insulating material; restores smeared or smudged markings; and identifies firearms and compares bullets, tool markings, and foot prints.'

Click Here To Read The Excellent AAFS Guide in Full

Paul. L. Kirk

Paul Leland Kirk was Emeritus Professor of Criminalistics at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB). During his tenure, Kirk was instrumental in establishing the topic as an academic discipline. Kirk's interest in the application of scientific knowledge within a criminal investigation led to the publication of the landmark text Crime Investigation Physical Evidence and the Police Laboratory in 1953.

Paul Leland Kirk died on the 5th of June 1970 the following passage is taken from his obituary.

If he wished to be remembered for any one thing, it would be for his contribution to criminalistics. Indeed, the very term has come into usage largely through his efforts, and it was he who established the first academic program in the subject in the United States. He brought to the profession an insight and scientific rigor rarely seen before his time.


Great article from 1947 by Andrew Boone featuring criminalist Paul L Kirk.

Criminalists: Catching Criminals By A Hair

Essential Reading

Criminalistics: An Introduction to Forensic Science by Richard Saferstein

Editorial Review

Dr. Richard Saferstein's book continues to be the gold standard of forensic science textbooks. He is simply unrivaled in his skill at making the crime lab exciting and accessible to all readers, ranging from forensic scientists and pathologists, to attorneys and judges, to law enforcement, to students and enthusiasts of all ages.

This compelling, latest updated edition should be in every library and classroom, especially now in this era of proliferating forensic scientific advancements that make the impossible possible and mistakes unpardonable.” – Patricia Cornwell

Back Cover Text

This book aims at making the subject of forensic science comprehensible to a wide variety of readers who are planning on being aligned with the forensic science profession. Written by a very well-known authority in forensic science, this text introduces the non-scientific student to the field of forensic science. The text strives to make the technology of the modern crime laboratory clear to the non-scientist by combining case stories with applicable technology.

See following link for more details:

Criminalistics: An Introduction to Forensic Science (College Edition) (9th Edition)

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Read FBI Profiling Classics on Kindle

This special Kindle collection consists primarily of the landmark articles written by members of the Behavioral Science Units, National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, at the FBI Academy. These seminal publications in the history of FBI profiling were released by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of the information on serial killers provided by the FBI's Training Division.

See following link for full details.

Information on Serial Killers

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