Forensic science Timeline
Timeline Description: Forensic science is the application of science and technology to investigate criminal acts. This area of science, once prone to numerous errors and misinterpretation, is now one of the most important pieces of a case in modern law.

Date Event
44 BC Death of an emperor

Julius Caesar is assassinated. Following this event, a physician performed an autopsy, and determined that of the 23 wounds found on the body, only one was fatal.
400 Who determines cause of death(400s)

Germanic and Slavic societies made law that medical experts must be the ones to determine cause of death in crimes.
600 Use of fingerprints for the first time (600s)

Fingerprints first used to determine identity. Arabic merchants would take a debtor's fingerprint and attach it to the bill.
1248 First forensic science book

First forensic science manual published by the Chinese. This was the first known record of medical knowledge being used to solve criminal cases.
1600 Reporting cases (1600s)

First pathology reports published.
1784 Physical evidence used in criminal case

First recorded instance of physical matching of evidence leading to a murder conviction (John Toms, England). Evidence was a torn edge of newspaper in a pistol that matched newspaper in his pocket.
1806 Investigating poisoning

German chemist Valentin Ross developed a method of detecting arsenic in a victim's stomach, thus advancing the investigation of poison deaths.
1816 More physical evidence discovered to work in forensics

Clothing and shoes of a farm laborer were examined and found to match evidence of a nearby murder scene, where a young woman was found drowned in a shallow pool.
1836 Chemical testing utilized

James Marsh, an English chemist, uses chemical processes to determine arsenic as the cause of death in a murder trial.
1854 First uses of photos in identification (1854-59 )

San Francisco uses photography for criminal identification, the first city in the US to do so.
1880 Fingerprints found to be unique

Henry Faulds and William James Herschel publish a paper describing the uniqueness of fingerprints. Francis Galton, a scientist, adapted their findings for the court. Galton's system identified the following patterns: plain arch, tented arch, simple loop, central pocket loop, double loop, lateral pocket loop, plain whorl, and accidental.
1887 Sherlock Holmes and the coroner

Coroner's act established that coroners' were to determine the causes of sudden, violent, and unnatural deaths. Arthur Conan Doyle also publishes the first Sherlock Holmes story.
1892 Fingerprint ID used in crime

Juan Vucetich, an Argentinean police officer, is the first to use fingerprints as evidence in a murder investigation. He created a system of fingerprint identification, which he termed dactyloscopy.
1888 Criminal features reduced to numerical measurements

Anthropometry, a system using various measurements of physical features and bones, used throughout the US and Europe. Using the system, a criminal's information could be reduced to a set of numbers.
1901 Investigations into blood markers

Human blood grouping, ABO, discovered by Karl Landsteiner and adapted for use on bloodstains by Dieter Max Richter.
1901 Fingerprint ID more common

Galton-Henry system of fingerprint identification officially used by Scotland Yard, and is the most widely used fingerprinting method to date.
1903 First fingerprint prisoner ID used

NY state prison system implemented fingerprint identification.
1909 Learning about forensics

First school of forensic science founded by Rodolphe Archibald Reiss, in Switzerland.
1910 Hair now used in forensics

Victor Balthazard and Marcelle Lambert publish first study on hair, including microscopic studies from most animals. First legal case ever involving hair also took place following this study.
1912 Guns are unique

Victor Balthazard realizes that tools used to make gun barrels never leave the same markings, and individual gun barrels leave identifying grooves on each bullet fired through it. He developed several methods of matching bullets to guns via photography.
1923 Crime labs built

First police crime lab established in Los Angeles.
1930 Lie detection

Prototype polygraph, which was invented by John Larson in 1921, developed for use in police stations.
1932 Crime experts build lab

FBI establishes its own crime laboratory, now one of the foremost crime labs in the world. This same year, a chair of legal medicine at Harvard was established.
1960 Voice recording, used as evidence (1960s)

A sound spectrograph discovered to be able to record voices. Voiceprints began to be used in investigations and as court evidence from recordings of phones, answering machines, or tape recorders.
1967 First national crime system

FBI established the National Crime Information Center, a computerized national filing system on wanted people, stolen vehicles, weapons, etc.
1974 Advances in residue detection

Technology developed at Aerospace Corporation in the US to detect gunshot residue, which can link a suspect to a crime scene, and can show how close that suspect was to the gun.
1975 Advanced manual fingerprints

First fingerprint reader installed at the FBI
1979 Auto fingerprint system first used

Royal Canadian Mounted Police implement first automatic fingerprint identification system.
1984 DNA technique for unique ID

DNA fingerprinting techniques developed by Sir Alec Jeffreys.
1983 Advances in DNA lead to conviction (1983-86)

DNA fingerprinting led to conviction of Colin Pitchfork in the murder of two teenage girls. This evidence cleared the main suspect in the case, who likely would have been convicted without it.
1987 DNA catches the criminal

Tommy Lee Andrews convicted of a series of sexual assaults, using DNA profiling.
1996 DNA evidence certified

National Academy of Sciences announces DNA evidence is reliable.
1999 Faster fingerprint IDs

FBI establishes the integrated automated fingerprint identification system, cutting down fingerprint inquiry response from two weeks to two hours.
2001 Faster DNA IDs

Technology speeds up DNA profiling time, from 6-8 weeks to between 1-2 days.
2007 Footwear detection system

Britain's Forensic Science Service develops online footwear coding and detection system. This helps police to identify footwear marks quickly.
2008 Detection after cleaning

A way for scientists to visualize fingerprints even after the print has been removed is developed, relating to how fingerprints can corrode metal surfaces.
2011 Facial sketches matched to photos

Michigan state university develops software that automatically matches hand-drawn facial sketches to mug shots stored in databases.
2011 4 second dental match

Japanese researchers develop a dental x-ray matching system. This system can automatically match dental x-rays in a database, and makes a positive match in less than 4 seconds.