27 October 2018
The Evolution of Forensic Science Through Technology
What is forensic science? What do forensic scientists do? Forensic science is the use of applying science to help in criminal and civil investigations. Forensic scientists process physical evidence to help found clues to bring an investigation to an end (What is Forensic Science). They can speed up the closing of an investigation by processing physical evidence to find DNA or processing fingerprints to find an identity. Forensic science has had a huge impact on police investigations and continues to shine new lights on investigations as it evolves with everyday technology.
Forensic science first made an appearance in the 700’s when the Chinese first used fingerprinting as a form of identification (Forensic). Since then forensic science has gotten stronger. Now investigations are dependent on forensic science to further help them develop leads and pinpoint the suspect/suspects that committed the crime. In 1784, the introduction of physical evidence was brought into criminal cases (Forensic). This helped lead to the dependency on forensic science. Physical evidence is an object, which is usually found at a crime scene, that can be submitted in court to prove how/what crime was committed (US Legal). This led to a clearer understanding of criminal investigations. Using physical evidence is one of the main ways that we now begin to crack the code of the crime that was committed. Physical evidence becomes more profound in 1816 with the closer examination of clothing found at a crime scene (Forensic). In the 18oo’s the first use of toxicology was brought to attention, and In 1836, the use of chemical testing became present (Forensic). James Marsh was a chemist who used this process to determine arsenic as the cause of death. The first use of photos in an investigation was used in 1854 (Forensic). Fingerprints were found to be unique to every individual which made the identification process easier (Glen). Different classifications or arrangements of the fingerprint’s loops, whorls, and arches are how they told each fingerprint apart. The study of fingerprints is called dactyloscopy which is also knows as dactylography (Glen). In 1887, the use of the coroner, which is also known as the medical examiner, was first introduced in both forensic and criminal investigations (Forensic). The introduction of coroners directly brought about the use of an autopsy. An autopsy is a procedure done by the coroner that helps determine the cause of death ( Stöppler). This was mainly done if the death was sudden, violent, or unnatural. In 1892 the advancements of fingerprinting lead to the pulling of fingerprints from crime scenes.
Physical evidence is objects found at a crime scene. Prints are a form of physical evidence. Print can be a footprint or a fingerprint, a tool, or any marks left on a crime scene. Evidence also can consist of pieces of clothing and furniture. Physical evidence is given forensic scientist to help find clues further the investigation, such as DNA left behind by a suspect. Physical evidence that is analyzed by forensic scientists are presented to court because of its scientific accuracy. Things that are concentered physical evidence is blood stains, hair, fiber and threads. Glass, paint, flammable liquids, firearms, tool marks, controlled substances, questioned documents, latent fingerprints are all other examples of things found at a crime scene that can be submitted as physical evidence and brought to a forensic scientist to exam. A criminal investigator is the person who collects the physical evidence for the forensic scientist. Blood stains are collected by gauze pad and or a clean cotton swab. Blood swabs should be kept in a cool clement to keep the integrity of the sample intact. By collecting blood samples, it could be useful in finding the DNA of the suspect or the victim. Collecting hair form a crime scene is beneficial by determining the race as well as the identity of the person it came from. Hair samples also show if the person was under the influence of medications or illegal substances. Fibers and threads are typically found in the crime scene if a person leaves them behind if a struggle accrued between the victim and suspect. It can be beneficial by comparing fibers and thread collected from the crime to determine the piece of clothing that was worn. They can examine it to find out the color and material of the fabric that was left at the crime scene. Firearm evidence can be crucial in investigations. By conducting tests on different types of guns a forensic scientist can determine the make and model of the gun that was used in the crime scene. To do this they look at the grooves on the bullet left behind by the barrel of the gun. Also, when a gun is shot a forensic scientist can test a subsects hand for gunshot residue that was left behind after the gun has been fired. All this information uses to take a long time to go thought and compare by hand, but with the use of technology it has made going through evidence easier and more productive in an efficient manner with the deduced time.
Toxicology is a part of science that focuses on the nature effects and the detection of poisons. Forensic toxicology is the combined use of multiple disciplines such as analytical chemistry, and pharmacology/clinical chemistry to help either a medical or legal investigation in determining the death of a person. Whether they were poisoned or if any drug use had a factor in part in their death. Toxicologist preform several tests on blood and tissue samples to determine if there are any chemicals found in a person’s body that may have been directly impacted or related to a crime/crime scene. The first use of toxicology was in 1814 which focused simply on poison in the human body. Toxicology had come a long way with today’s technology and now focuses on legal. illegal and synthetic drugs. Synthetic drugs are manmade drugs and can arguably be the most dangerous because people can put whatever they want in it without regard for toxic affects
in the human body. With the help of today’s technology analysts can run data that was collected through databases in which they can be compared to other chemical make ups to identify what drug and poison was found in the person’s blood stream. Each test used to be ran separately by hand and compared. The new database makes this process a lot faster.
Forensic pathologist, more commonly known as the medical examiner, has had a tremendous impact on the forensic science. The medical examiner collects evidence from the victim’s body such as fibers, skin tissue and hair floccules that are found on the body of the victim and are sent to the forensic lab to get tested to determine if there could be usable DNA or where to fibers came from. Most immortally the medical examiner determines the time and manor of death. There are four classifications of death a person could be labeled under. They are natural, homicide, accidental and suicide. Today’s technology has made a tremendous impact on the medical examiners job. It has made their job easier and faster. By being able to properly preserve the body for a longer duration of time allows the examiner to thoroughly examine the body for any unusual abnormalities that can help investigators find the person who has committed the crime.
Forensic databases in a very important resource in forensic science. Forensic scientists use databases for bullets, DNA, and fingerprints. The technical terms for these databases are the intergraded ballistic identification system (IBIS). IBIS uses the imaging technology to enter bullets and bullet casing evidence into the database so that it can be used and compared to other bullets in other crime senses. The bullets database has a record of every gun that was used in a criminal action. The Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) stores the biological profiles of thousands of people’s DNA. With the use of this databases, forensic scientist can run any hair, blood, or tissues sample against it to potentially find a DNA match. The Intergraded Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) stores fingerprints that have been collected at crime scene. Usually individuals that are stored in the system are those who have a high official job. This database is used to run latent prints, which are prints that were left behind at a crime scene to determine a possibly identity of an unknown individual. These databases store millions of results of identities.
Forensic science has come a long way since it was first brought to light in the 700’s by the Chinese. Back then forensic scientists had to run tests by hand and compare them to other results which would take a long period of time. With today’s technology they are able to run multiple tests at once against thousands of results in a shorter period of time. With todays advanced technology, we can collect physical evidence in a portion of the time and now could store the evidence longer and with more certainty of no contamination of the evidence that was collected. With the accessibility to the databases running tests and collecting results have greatly increased and in a fraction of the time. With the ability to store and add new information to databases, such as DNA, ballistics, and toxicology, that get updated every day with new information it adds to the accuracy of future results. The ability to examine a victim’s body for chemicals and drugs has made it easier to find the cause of death in certain crimes. Who knows where the advances for forensic science will take us with in the next fifty years.
Glen. “Dactylography: The Scientific Study of Fingerprints.” Owlcation, Owlcation, 14 Mar. 2017, owlcation.com/humanities/fingerprinting.
“Forensic Science Timeline.” Math, www.softschools.com/timelines/forensic_science_timeline/99/.
Stöppler, Melissa Conrad. “What Is Autopsy? Procedure & Report.” EMedicineHealth, www.emedicinehealth.com/autopsy/article_em.htm.
US Legal, Inc. “Physical Evidence Law and Legal Definition.” Physical Evidence Law and Legal Definition | USLegal, Inc., definitions.uslegal.com/p/physical-evidence/.