History of Forensics: Timeline

  • 44 BCE

    Death of Julius Caesar

    It was determined by a physician who performed an autopsy, that Julius was stabbed 23 times but only one was what killed him.
  • 400

    Medical Law

    A law was created by Germanic and Slavic societies that only medical experts can determine the cause of death if a crime is present.
  • 600


    Fingerprinting had become a new method of determining an individual's identity.
  • 1248

    Forensic Science Book

    A Chinese manual called Hsi Duan Yu (the washing away of wrongs) was published. It was the first known record of a science book containing medical knowledge that was used to solve a case.
  • Handwriting Analysis

    Francois Demelle published a book systematic document examination.
  • Fingerprint Characteristics

    Marcello Malpighi noted the characteristics in fingerprints. However, it wasn't acknowledged that the use of DNA fingerprinting could be used as a method of identification.
  • Physical Evidence

    John Toms was convicted of murder. A piece of a newspaper found in the murder weapon (pistol) matched a piece in his pocket. This was the first known type of physical evidence.
  • Investigation of Poison Deaths

    Valentin Ross, a German chemist, was able to detect arsenic in a victim's stomach due to his new method.
  • Stains

    Mathiew Orfila, the father of toxicology, was the first to study blood and semen stains under a microscope.
  • New Microscope Invention

    The polarizing light microscope was invented by William Nichol.
  • Bullet Comparison

    Henry Goddard used bullet comparison to determine who the murderer was. The murderer was caught because of a visible flaw found on the bullet itself.
  • Crystal Test

    Ludwig Teichmann used hemin crystals to test for hemoglobin. It was the first microscopic crystal test.
  • Photograph Identification

    San Francisco uses photographs to identify a criminal.
  • Palm Markings

    Thomas Taylor proposed that markings found on the palm and fingertips could be a method used for identification.
  • Study of Hair

    Hair was first studied by Rudolph Virchow, who also recognized its limitations.
  • Fingerprints Discovered to be Unique

    A paper was published by Henry Faulds and William James Herschel about the different aspects in a fingerprint and how it's unique.
  • Anthropometry

    Alphonse Bertillon, a policeman, identified the first person who reoffended based on his invention of anthropometry, the study of measurements of our bodies.
  • Jack the Ripper

    Doctors looked for wound patterns while examining victims who were involved in Jack the Ripper.
  • Trace Evidence

    Locard brings forward the idea of a precept "Every contact leaves a trace."
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation

    The FBI was established by President Theodore Roosevelt.
  • Forensics Education

    The first school which taught forensic science was founded by Rodolphe Archibald Reiss.
  • Lie Detection

    John Larson had invented a machine that detects lies based on your breathing and blood pressure.
  • Crime Labs Built

    Crime labs were being built, the first being in Los Angeles.
  • Polygraph Tests

    Polygraph tests were ruled as inadmissible, non-valid evidence.
  • Breathalyzer

    R.F. Borkenstein invented the breathalyzer, which was used for sobriety tests to determine if someone is under the influence.
  • Voiceprints

    Voice recordings from phone calls, answer machines, etc., were recorded on sound spectrographs and could be used as evidence.
  • National Crime Information Center

    A national crime system was established where wanted people, stolen vehicles, weapons, etc., were file into.
  • Residue Detection

    Because of technology advances, gunshot residue could be detected. You could also determine how close the person was from the gun.
  • Automatic Fingerprint ID

    A system was implemented for automatic fingerprint identifications. By 1999, the inquiry went from two weeks to two hours to respond.
  • DNA Profiling Testing

    Alec Jeffreys performed the first DNA profiling test.
  • Production of DNA IDs Becomes Faster

    Improved technology allows DNA profiling time to go from 6-8 weeks, to only 1-2 days.
  • Footwear Detection

    A system was created by Britain's Forensic Science Service to code/detect footwear to identify footwear marks.
  • Detection of "Clean" Fingerprints

    Scientists discovered a way to visualize fingerprints even after prints have been cleaned off of a surface, object, etc.
  • Facial Sketching

    A software was developed by Michigan State University that automatically detected a mug shot stored on the database by a hand drawn image of that person.
  • Dental X-ray Matching System

    Researchers in Japan developed a dental x-ray matching system. Dental records can match to a person stored on the database.