History of Forensic Science
Welcome to the history of forensic science page. The aim of this page is to highlight landmark cases, scientific breakthroughs and pioneers within the discipline whose forensic work left a lasting legacy.
The history of Forensic science i.e. applying "scientific" principles to legal questions has a long and intriguing history. Notable examples include:
In 44BC following the assassination of Julius Caesar the attending physician proclaimed that of the 23 wounds found on the body ‘only one’ was fatal.
In the 5th century Germanic and Slavic societies were believed to be the first to put down in statute that medical experts should be employed to determine cause of death.
In 1247 the first textbook on forensic medicine is published in China which among others things documents the procedures to be followed when investigating a suspicious death.
In medieval England pressure from the church halted the practice of hanging women thought to be pregnant. A convicted woman could escape the death penalty if she ‘pleaded her belly’ providing a physician could prove that she was in factpregnant.
Inspired by the study of anatomy medicolegal textbooks begin to appear by the end of the 16th century.
The 1887 coroners act ensured that an integral part of the coroners’ role was to determine the circumstances and the medical causes of sudden, violent and unnatural deaths.
1932, chair of legal medicine at Harvard is established.
Forensic Science Timeline Video
Travel back to a time before CSI. This wonderful article from 1921 is essentially a CSI call to arms, which you can read via the following link.
See following link for information on forensic pioneer Alphonse Bertillon.
See following link for information on forensic pioneer Mathieu Orfila.