History Of Forensics In Police Work


forensic-science-scholarshipsForensic science dates back thousands of years.  It is the ability to apply scientific analysis to assist the criminal justice system.

The ancient Chinese used fingerprints to identify business documents.

One of the first people to advocate the use of fingerprinting for criminal suspects was Sir William Herschel in 1858.

Fingerprinting was used in 1877 in Hooghly near Calcutta to prevent prisoners from attempting frauds to avoid serving their prison sentences.

Dr. Harry Faukls published a paper in 1880 outlining the benefits of fingerprinting and suggested using printing ink to record the prints for classification.  The Metropolitan Police in London rejected his idea.

The world’s first fingerprint bureau was set up in Argentina in 1892.  Calcutta established a fingerprint bureau in 1897.  Scotland Yard in London established their bureau in 1902.  New York City Civil Service began using fingerprinting in 1902 while New York City introduced the process of fingerprinting criminals to the United States in 1906.

A chemical test for detecting the presence of arsenic was developed by a Scottish chemist in 1832.

The first person to use physical analysis of a bullet to connect the bullet to a murder weapon was Henry Goddard of Scotland Yard in 1835.  In the 1920s when the comparison microscope became available the examination and comparison of bullets became much more precise.

The ability to detect gunshot residue was developed in the 1970s by scientists at the Aerospace Corporation in California.


In the mid 1900s tests were developed to analyze saliva, semen and other body fluids.

The ability to classify human blood into several groups was developed in 1930.  Forensic analysis of blood relied only on the ABO blood identification to make biological determination as recently as the 1970s.  Later the ability was developed to break the analysis down into subgroups based on enzyme categories, .

A British geneticist, Sir Alex J. Jeffreys, first used DNA in the 1980s to identify an individual.  With technological advances there has been continued improvements and progress in the field of DNA testing.

The first police crime laboratory was set up in France in 1910.  Los Angeles established the first American crime laboratory in 1924 and the FBI established their first laboratory in 1932.

The advances in forensic sciences have become an invaluable asset to the law enforcement community.  There are now countless test available which include such things as computer forensics, blood spatter analysis, forensic audits, forensic toxicology, serology, pathology, odontology, trace evidence analysis and many more tests.