In this blog I will occasionally write about different topics concerning technology the sciences, criminal science as well as criminology.
First, here is a short summary about Sherlock Holmes, forensic science and forensic techniques
Conan Doyle made Holmes a man of science and an innovator of forensic methods.
Holmes as a private detective used methods years before they were adopted by official police forces throughout the world.The fictional Holmes reveled in tiny details and caught everyone by surprise defining a subject with details relating to height, weight, gait, carrying a load, occupation and other summaries simply by observing a wet foot print in a garden.In addition, his ability to “reason backwards” (looking at the criminal act and working his way backwards to lead him to evidence) helped guide him to a conclusion.
Holmes was quick to realize the value of fingerprint evidence. The first case in which fingerprints are mentioned is the Sign of the Four. Scotland Yard did not begin to use fingerprints until 1901. Conan Doyle chose to have Holmes use fingerprints instead of Bertillonage (anthropometry).
Bertillionage was a system of identification that used 12 characteristics of the body.
Holmes also solved a variety of ciphers for example in The Adventure of the Gloria Scott. A similar system was used in the America Civil War.
Holmes used footprints in the very first of the 60 stories (A Study in Scarlet). Homes best use of footprints is shown in the Boscombe Valley Mystery which he solved almost entirely on footprint evidence. Holmes also used handwriting to make some amazing deductions. Not only could he tell gender but he was also able to make deductions about the writer`s character. Holmes also tells us something about the use of dogs in detective work (The Sign of the Four)
Holmes really has a big influence on modern detective work and forensic science.
A few examples:
Like all good detectives, Holmes uses deductive reasoning to solve his cases. By carefully making observations of seemingly commonplace or unimportant things, Holmes is able to reliably paint a picture of high probabilities.
Toxicology, the branch of science concerned with study and detections of poisons.
Palynology is the study of pollen grains and other spores.
Serology is the study of blood serum.
One famous criminologist who was probably influenced by Conan Doyle was Hans Gross from Austria.In 1893, his book Criminal Investigations, a Practical Textbook (Handbuch für Untersuchungsrichter), helped to establish science of forensics, especially in terms of a cross-transfer of evidence, such as dirt, fingerprints, carpet fibers or hair from the criminal to the victim.
The purpose of the book was to make up for a deficiency in criminalistics. Gross especially expanded on body language and the importance of the judge and the witnesses in a criminal case. He observed the behaviors of murderers, arsonists, thieves and counterfeiters.
He believed that the study pf psychology allowed one to understand the motives of criminals. Also, he relates chemistry, physics, botany, secret codes and the use of blood to further determine facts and motives. His book contains revolutionary methods and ideas that greatly broadened criminal science.
Gross explains the necessity of balancing emotion with evidence and evidence with logic. Throughout his life, Hans Gross made significant contributions to the realm of scientific criminology. When he wrote his book, there were very few crime investigators. Many of the law officers were volunteers or ex-police officers. As a result, jurists mainly solved and prosecuted all crimes brought before them. This proved to be a poor system as many of the magistrates relied on their personal knowledge and limited facts of evidence.
Gross noticed the faults in the justice system early on his career. His efforts focused on expanding deep investigation, professional ethics and the scientific method. He defined criminal psychology from a technical viewpoint, considering it as pure research. His view of research , technical evidence and methods also led to development of the crime scene.
Early in the 20th century, serological research led to the discovery of the A,B,AB and 0 blood groups, thus increasing the value of blood as evidence at a crime scene. About 1980 advances in biochemistry and technology resulted in the discovery of unique gene markers in each person. These genetic differences allow for the DNA fingerprinting of hair, blood, semen and tissue.