Forensic science involves the application of hard science and technology to the solution and prosecution of crime. Based upon the underlying principle that the criminal leaves part of himself at the scene, and takes part of the crime site with him, forensic science includes the identification and analysis of physical evidence in the form of impressions, trace evidence, and weaponry. Since physical evidence needs to be interpreted by an expert, it is, by definition, circumstantial. Fields of forensic science include: fingerprint technology, scientific lie detection, firearms identification, questioned documents, and forensic pathology, toxicology, chemistry, botany, entomology, anthropology, geology, and serology (DNA).
Jim Fisher has extensively researched the history of forensic science. Presented here are selected writings by Jim on the history of forensic science.
Forensic Science: A Small Part in a Big Play
This is the transcript of a speech Jim wrote and delivered at Duquesne University's Symposium on Forensic Science (January 31, 2004) discussing the role of science in the administration of justice.
Criminal Investigation: The Lost Art
What makes a successful investigator? Based on the material he has been teaching criminal justice students for the last thirty years, Jim discusses criminal investigation dos and don'ts. This article has been specifically written for the web site.
Mind Over Matter in the War Against Crime
Despite impressive advances in the technology of forensic science, Jim reminds the reader that the principal role of the detective remains the same. This article was published in Mystery Writers Annual (2000), p. 20.
The Webster-Parkman Case
Over 150 years ago in the celebrated Webster-Parkman case, science first played a dramatic role in a criminal investigation and trial. This case marked the first time an American court considered physical evidence and scientific testimony.
Pioneer Cop: A Half Century Ahead of his Time
In 1905 a 29-year-old mail carrier named August Vollmer began his police career in Berkeley, CA. He went on to become a legend in the field and, perhaps more than any other, shaped modern American law enforcement. Jim gives an overview of Vollmer's life and his contributions to the field of policing. This article appeared in The National Centurion (August, 1984) pp. 40, 41.
Eugene-Francois Vidocq: The World's First Detective
In early 19th century France Eugene-Francois Vidocq, an investigator in the Paris Police Department, became the first governmental crime fighter in the world to systematically investigate crime and bring criminals to justice. He successfully employed scientific methodology and physical evidence to extract confessions out of criminals without resorting to torture or the threat of physical violence.
Alphonse Bertillon: The Father of Criminal Identification
In late 1800's France, Alphonse Bertillon was the first to physically and scientifically identify habitual criminals. Although his system of filing body measurements was eventually replaced by fingerprinting, he was the first in the world to scientifically identify arrestees and is therefore considered the father of criminal identification, and by extension, forensic science.