History of Forensics


Adolphe Quetelet


Adolphe Quetelet, a Belgian statistician, provided the foundation for Bertillon’s work by stating his belief that no two
human bodies were exactly alike.



Alphonse Bertillon, a French police employee, identified the first recidivist based on his invention of anthropometry.

Alfred Dreyfus


Alfred Dreyfus of France was convicted of treason based on a mistaken handwriting identification by Bertillon.

Will West


At Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, Kansas, Will West, a new inmate, was initially confused with a resident convict William West using anthropometry. They were later (1905) found to be easily differentiated by their fingerprints.


Henry Goddard


Henry Goddard, one of Scotland Yard’s original Bow Street Runners, first used bullet comparison to catch a murderer. His comparison was based on a visible flaw in the bullet which was traced back to a mold.

Alexandre Lacassagne


Alexandre Lacassagne, professorprofessor of forensic medicine at the University of Lyons, France, was the first to try to individualize bullets to a gun barrel. His comparisons at the time were based simply on the number of lands and grooves.

Paul Jesrich


Paul Jesrich, a forensic chemist working in Berlin, Germany, took photomicrographs of two bullets to compare, and subsequently individualize, the minutiae.

Victor Balthazard


Victor Balthazard also used photographic enlargements
of bullets and cartridge cases to determining weapon type and was among the first to attempt to individualize a bullet to a weapon.

Victor Balthazard


Victor Balthazard, professor of forensic medicine at the Sorbonne, published the first article on individualizing bullet markings.

Charles E. Waite


Charles E. Waite was the first to catalog manufacturing data about weapons.

Calvin Goddard


Calvin Goddard, with Charles Waite, Phillip O. Gravelle, and John H Fisher, perfected the comparison microscope for use in bullet comparison.

Luke May


Luke May, one of the first American criminalists, pioneered striation analysis in tool mark comparison, including an
attempt at statistical validation. In 1930 he published The identification of knives, tools and instruments, a positive
science, in The American Journal of Police Science.

Sacco and Vanzetti case


The case of Sacco and Vanzetti, which took place in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, was responsible for popularizing the use of the comparison microscope for bullet comparison. Calvin Goddard’s conclusions were upheld when the evidence was reexamined in 1961.



Walsh Automation Inc., in Montreal, launched development of an automated imaging system called the Integrated Ballistics Identification System, or IBIS, for comparison of the marks left on fired bullets, cartridge cases, and shell casings. This system was subsequently developed for the U.S. market in collaboration with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).



The FBI contracted with Mnemonic Systems to developed Drugfire, an automated imaging system to compare marks
left on cartridge cases and shell casings. The ability to compare fired bullets was subsequently added.

Blood Typing

Karl Landsteiner


Karl Landsteiner first discovered human blood groups and was awarded the Nobel prize for his work in 1930. Landsteiner's continued work on the detection of blood, its species, and its type formed the basis of practically all subsequent work

Max Richter


Max Richter adapted Karl Landsteiner's technique to type stains. This is one of the first instances of performing validation experiments specifically to adapt a method for forensic science.

Paul Uhlenhuth


Paul Uhlenhuth, a German immunologist, developed the precipiten test for species. He was also one of the first to
institute standards, controls, and QA/QC procedures. Wassermann (famous for developing a test for syphilis) and Schütze independently discovered and published the precipiten test, but never received due credit.

Oskar and Rudolf Adler


Oskar and Rudolf Adler developed a presumptive test for blood based on benzidine, a new chemical developed by Merk

Leone Lattes


Leone Lattes, professor at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Turin Italy, developed the first antibody test for ABO blood groups. He first used the test in casework to resolve a marital dispute. He published L’Individualità del sangue nella biologia, nella clinica, nella medicina, legale, the first book dealing not only with clinical issues, but heritability, paternity, and typing of dried stains

Vittorio Siracusa


Vittorio Siracusa, working at the Institute of Legal Medicine of the R. University of Messina, Italy, developed the absorbtion-elution test for ABO blood typing of stains. Along with his mentor, Lattes also performed significant work on the absorbtion-inhibition technique.

Landsteiner and Levine


Landsteiner and Levine first detected the M, N, and P blood factors leading to development of the MNSs and P typing systems.

Franz Josef Holzer


Franz Josef Holzer, an Austrian scientist, working at the Institute for Forensic Medicine of the University of Innsbruck, developed the absorbtion-inhibition ABO typing technique that became the basis of that commonly used in forensic laboratories. It was based on the prior work of Siracusa and Lattes.

Walter Specht


Walter Specht, at the University Institute for Legal Medicine and Scientific Criminalistics in Jena, Germany, developed the chemiluminescent reagent luminol as a presumptive test for blood.

Landsteiner/A.S. Wiener


Landsteiner and A.S. Wiener first described Rh blood groups



Mourant first described the Lewis blood group system.

R.R. Race


R.R. Race first described the Kell blood group system

M. Cutbush


M. Cutbush, and colleagues first described the Duffy blood group system

F.H. Allen


F. H. Allen and colleagues first described the Kidd blood grouping system

A.S. Weiner


A. S. Weiner and colleagues introduced the use of H-lectin to determine positively O blood type.

Brian J. Culliford/Brian Wraxall


Brian J. Culliford and Brian Wraxall developed the immunoelectrophoretic technique for haptoglobin typing in

Brian J. Culliford


Culliford, of the British Metropolitan Police Laboratory, initiated the development of gel-based methods to test for isoenzymes in dried bloodstains. He was also instrumental in the development and dissemination of methods for testing proteins and isoenzymes in both blood and other body fluids and secretions.



The FBI introduced the beginnings of its Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) with the first computerized scans of fingerprints

DNA Fingerprinting



The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was first conceived by Kerry Mullis, while he was working at Cetus Corporation. The first paper on the technique was not published until 1985.

Alec Jeffreys


(Sir) Alec Jeffreys developed the first DNA profiling test. It involved detection of a multilocus RFLP pattern. He published his findings in Nature in 1985.

1st DNA crime


In the first use of DNA to solve a crime, Jeffreys used DNA profiling to identify Colin Pitchfork as the murderer of two young girls in the English Midlands. Significantly, in the course of the investigation, DNA was first used to exonerate an innocent suspect.

People vs. Pestinikas


In People v. Pestinikas, Edward Blake first used PCR-based DNA testing (HLA DQα) , to confirm different autopsy samples to be from the same person. The evidence was accepted by a civil court. This was also the first use of any kind of DNA testing in the United States

Henry Erlich


The human genetics group at Cetus Corporation, led by Henry Erlich, developed the PCR technique for a number of clinical and forensic applications. This resulted in development of the first commercial PCR typing kit specifically for forensic use, HLA DQα (DQA1), about 2 years later.

DNA Profiling


DNA profiling was introduced for the first time in a U.S. criminal court. Based on RFLP analysis performed by Lifecodes, Tommy Lee Andrews was convicted of a series of sexual assaults in Orlando, Florida.

New York vs. Castro


New York v. Castro was the first case in which the admissibility of DNA was seriously challenged. It set in motion a string of events that culminated in a call for certification, accreditation, standardization, and quality control guidelines for both DNA laboratories and the general forensic community.

Roche Molecular Systems


Roche Molecular Systems (formerly Cetus) released a set of five additional DNA markers (“polymarker”) to add to the HLA-DQA1 forensic DNA typing system.

Tennessee vs. Ware


In Tennessee v. Ware, mitochondrial DNA typing was admitted for the first time in a U.S. court



An FBI DNA database, NIDIS, enabling interstate cooperation in linking crimes, was put into practice.



The FBI upgraded its computerized fingerprint database and implemented the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), allowing paperless submission, storage, and search capabilities directly to the national database maintained at the FBI.

Memorandum of Understanding


A Memorandum of Understanding is signed between the FBI and ATF, allowing the use of the National Integrated Ballistics Network (NIBIN), to facilitate exchange of firearms data between Drugfire and IBIS.




Chinese used fingerprints to establish identity of documents and clay sculpture, but without any formal classification system.

Palm prints


Quintilian, an attorney in the Roman courts, showed that bloody palm prints were meant to frame a blind man of his mother’s murder.

Marcello Malpighi


Marcello Malpighi, a professor of anatomy at the University of Bologna, noted fingerprint characteristics. However, he made no mention of their value as a tool for individual identification.

John Evangelist Purkinji


John Evangelist Purkinji, a professorprofessor of anatomy at the University of Breslau, Czecheslovakia, published the first paper on the nature of fingerprints and suggested a classification system based on nine major types. However, he failed to recognize their individualizing potential.

William Herschel


Sir William Herschel, a British officer working for the Indian Civil service, began to use thumbprints on documents both as a substitute for written signatures for illiterates and to verify document signatures

Thomas Taylor


Thomas Taylor, microscopist to U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested that markings of the palms of the hands and the tips of the fingers could be used for identification in criminal cases. Although reported in the American Journal of Microscopy and Popular Science and Scientific American, the idea was apparently never pursued from this source.

Henry Faulds


Henry Faulds, a Scottish physician working in Tokyo, published a paper in the journal Nature suggesting that fingerprints at the scene of a crime could identify the offender. In one of the first recorded uses of fingerprints to solve a crime, Faulds used fingerprints to eliminate an innocent suspect and indicate a perpetrator in a Tokyo burglary.

Gilbert Thompson


Gilbert Thompson, a railroad builder with the U.S Geological Survey in New Mexico, put his own thumbprint on wage chits to safeguard himself from forgeries.

Francis Galton


(Sir) Francis Galton published Fingerprints, the first comprehensive book on the nature of fingerprints and their use
in solving crime

Juan Vucetich


Juan Vucetich, an Argentinean police researcher, developed the fingerprint classification system that would come to be used in Latin America. After Vucetich implicated a mother in the murder of her own children using her bloody fingerprints, Argentina was the first country to replace anthropometry with fingerprints.

Edward Henry


Sir Edward Richard Henry developed the print classification system that would come to be used in Europe and North America. He published Classification and Uses of Finger Prints.

Henry P. DeForrest


Henry P. DeForrest pioneered the first systematic use of fingerprints in the United States by the New York Civil
Service Commission.

New York State Prison


The New York State Prison system began the first systematic use of fingerprints in United States for criminal identification.

Will West


At Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, Kansas, Will West, a new inmate, was initially confused with a resident convict William West using anthropometry. They were later (1905) found to be easily differentiated by their fingerprints.

Edmond Locard


Edmond Locard first suggested 12 matching points as a positive fingerprint identification.


Hsi Duan Yu


Hsi Duan Yu (the washing away of wrongs), contains a description of how to distinguish drowning
from strangulation. This was the first recorded application of medical knowledge to the solution of crime.

Physical Matching


In Lancaster, England, John Toms was convicted of murder on the basis of the torn edge of wad of newspaper in a
pistol matching a remaining piece in his pocket. This was one of the first documented uses of physical matching

Eugène François Vidocq


Eugène François Vidocq, in return for a suspension of arrest and a jail sentence, made a deal with the police to establish the first detective force, the Sûreté of Paris.

Document Analysis


The first recorded use of question document analysis occurred in Germany. A chemical test for a particular ink dye
was applied to a document known as the Konigin Hanschritt.

Dry Plate Photography


An English physician, Maddox, developed dry plate photography, eclipsing M. Daguerre’s wet plate on tin method. This made practical the photographing of inmates for prison records.

Hair Study


Rudolph Virchow, a German pathologist, was one of the first to both study hair and recognize its limitations.

Physical Evidence


Hans Gross, examining magistrate and professor of criminal law at the University of Graz, Austria, published Criminal Investigation, the first comprehensive description of uses of physical evidence in solving crime. Gross is also sometimes credited with coining the word criminalistics.

Victor Balthazard


Victor Balthazard, professor of forensic medicine at the Sorbonne, with Marcelle Lambert, published the first comprehensive hair study, Le poil de l'homme et des animaux. In one of the first cases involving hairs, Rosella Rousseau was convinced to confess to murder of Germaine Bichon

Edmond Locard


Edmond Locard, successor to Lacassagne as professor of forensic medicine at the University of Lyons, France, established the first police crime laboratory.

Georg Popp


Georg Popp pioneered the use of botanical identification in forensic work.

John Larson/ Leonard Keeler


John Larson and Leonard Keeler designed the portable polygraph.

Frye vs. U.S.


In Frye v. United States, polygraph test results were ruled inadmissible. The federal ruling introduced the concept of
general acceptance and stated that polygraph testing did not meet that criterion.

R.F. Borkenstein


R. F. Borkenstein, captain of the Indiana State Police, invented the Breathalyzer for field sobriety testing.

Trace Evidence

Edmond Locard


Edmond Locard published L'enquete criminelle et les methodes scientifique, in which appears a passage that may have given
rise to the forensic precept that “Every contact leaves a trace.”

Alber Schneider


Albert Schneider of Berkeley, California first used a vacuum apparatus to collect trace evidence

Max Frei-Sulzer


Max Frei-Sulzer, founder of the first Swiss criminalistics laboratory, developed the tape lift method of collecting trace evidence


Mathiew Orfila


Mathiew Orfila, a Spaniard who became professor of medicinal/forensic chemistry at University of Paris, published
Traite des Poisons Tires des Regnes Mineral, Vegetal et Animal, ou Toxicologie General l. Orfila is considered the father of modern toxicology. He also made significant contributions to the development of tests for the presence of blood in a forensic context and is credited as the first to attempt the use of a microscope in the assessment of blood and semen stains.

James Marsh


James Marsh, an Scottish chemist, was the first to use toxicology (arsenic detection) in a jury trial

Jean Servais Stas


Jean Servais Stas, a chemistry professorprofessor from Brussels, Belgium, was the first successfully to identify vegetable poisons in body tissue.