Peggy J. Anderson
Governor State University

In antiquity is where the rudimentary roots of forensics were formed. This includes as far as we know, the Greek and Roman cultures along with the Empires of such as Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan of the Mongols. All the above was prior to the 1st century and during the 1st century.

It makes me believe these were cultures that had the same needs as we have today in tracking and finding criminals, forms of investigation and punishment along with medical needs and general systems of living.

All the earliest forms of forensics seem to be at the same time these societies were trading with China, coincidence or shared knowledge? Genghis Khan did such things as opened trade, granted religious freedom, abolished torture, and established the first international postal services, along with encouraging trade. These were all in the 11 to 1200’s B.C., from these activities we can deduce that he had some forms of a Judicial and evidentiary system.

Since the Greeks established democracy, we can deduce they too had trials and evidentiary practices in the 100 to 200’s B.C.
Not until the 1200 A.D. era do we have a 5-volume book written by Song Ci of China which had a significant impact.

Forensics in antiquity seems to be a written start and come from an account written using medicine and entomology which foreshadows concepts in current forensic science but developed at a “snail’s pace” through the centuries until the 20th century when it seemed to speed up. This publication was written in 1248 in China by Song Ci translated as The Washing Away of Wrongs. He was a director of justice jail and supervision during the Song Dynasty.

One of the most interesting advances written in the book and told by Wikipedia was as follows. “The case of a person murdered with a sickle was solved by an investigator who instructed everyone to bring his sickle to one location. (He realized it was a sickle by testing various blades on an animal carcass and comparing the wound.) Flies, attracted by the smell of blood, eventually gathered on a single sickle. In light of this, the murderer confessed. For example, the book also described how to distinguish between a drowning (water in the lungs) and strangulation (broken neck cartilage), along with other evidence from examining corpses on determining if a death was caused by murder, suicide or an accident.”
Historically there have been several accounts of applications for and experimentation with forensic entomology. The concept of forensic entomology dates back to at least the 13th century. It has only been in the last 30 years that forensic entomology has been systematically explored as a feasible source for evidence in criminal investigations. Forensic entomology can be divided into three sub-fields “urban, stored-product and medico-legal/medico criminal entomology.” These all come originally from The Washing Away of Wrongs, 5 volume books by Song Ci in 1248-48 AD.

Some progress was made in forensic techniques based on the surgical work done by Ambrose Parés surgical work which laid the groundwork for the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The advances included Italian surgeons who provided the beginnings of modern pathology by studying changes that happened in the structure of the body as the result of disease.

In the late 18th century writings began to be published including a “Treatise on Forensic Medicine and Public Health” by Francois Immaniele Fodere and The Complete System of Police Medicine by the German medical expert Johann Peter Frank.

As the rational values of the Enlightenment era increasingly spread through society in the 18th century criminal investigation become a more evidence – based rational procedure – the use of torture to force confessions was slowed and belief in witchcraft and other powers of the occult largely ceased to influence the court’s decisions.

As the progress continued, a method for detecting arsenious oxide, simple arsenic, in corpses was devised in 1773 by the Swedish chemist, Carl Wilhelm Scheele. His work was expended in 1806 by German chemist, Valentin Ross, who learned to detect the poison in the stomach walls of a victim.

Importantly, an apparatus for the arsenic test was devised by James Marsh, who was the first to apply this new science to the art of forensics. He was being called by the prosecution in a murder trial to give evidence as a chemist in 1832. His performance in front of the jury failed due to the deterioration of the arsenic trisulfide and allowed jury to find reasonable doubt. This failure caused him to devise a better test called the Marsh Test that could detect as little as one – fiftieth of a milligram of arsenic and described at in The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal in 1836.

In 1858, Sir William Herschel was the first to use fingerprinting to identify criminal suspects. He is noted for using finger printing while working in the Indian Civil Service on documents as a security measure. Again in 1877 he used these methods to fingerprint on contracts and deeds and registered government pensioners fingerprints.

In 1880 Dr. Henry Fields, a Scottish surgeon resident in a Tokyo hospital. He published a paper in the scientific journal called “Nature” reasoning for identifying and proposing a method to record them with printing ink. He was the first to establish their first classification and was the first to identify fingerprints on a vial which become so commonly used in law enforcement.

This led to Francis Galton, who was interested in anthropology published fingerprint analysis and identification to use in forensic science. He also calculated that the chance of a “false positive” on two people having the same fingerprints was 1 in 64 billion.

Its was 1892 when an Argentine Chief of police, Juan Vucetich set up the first world fingerprint bureau using Galton’s pattern types.

Its was 1901 when Indian fingerprint experts; Azizul Haque and Hem Chandra Bose developed a fingerprint classification system that was accepted as the “Henry Classification System” in England and Wales when the first Scotland Yard and Metropolitan Police Headquarters, London.

The United States first used fingerprinting in the New York City Police Department’s deputy commissioner Joseph A. Faurot used the Bertillon system of fingerprinting of criminals to the U.S.

With time came the advent of digital forensics. In 1950 the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) was established with the Digital trademark. They ultimately hired Grace M. Hopper, as a consulting computer scientist.

Grace had developed programming software and languages that included, Cobalt software programming still in use today. She served in the U.S. Navy and retired as a Rear Admiral for her computer software developments and success.

DEC was bought by Compaq and then they merged with Hewlett Packard, becoming the second largest computer company with IBM being first.

In the 1970’s to early 1980’s digital forensics grew until the 1990’s when growth in personal computer’s along with corporate expansion’s and conversions of all sorts of systems to digital use.

1984 was our first introduction to Forensic DNA analysis. It was developed by Sir Alec Jeffreys. He had discovered the variation in genetic could be used to both identify people and tell them apart through the genetic code. It wasn’t until 1986 that DNA databases were developed. In the U.S. (FBI) had both the national and international databases along with the European countries (ENFSI) which is “the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes.” However, by the late 2000s it was discovered by scientists that DNA evidence could be fabricated.
By the 1990’s however, the growth proved to be haphazard and national policies were not established until the 21st century and we continue to be behind the growth.

As forensics has become more advanced, the progress includes laser scanners, drones and photogrammetry to better pin point accidents or crime scenes by 3D. Without shutting down traffic, drones can do the measurements in 10-20 minutes, saving a lot of time. It is not only fast but accurate when used in court and is easily preserved digitally for long term records.

The articles of today are outdated to our current and near future digital forensic problems. It has been reported and proven that the U.S. is and has been the victim of massive penetration by both in country and global perpetration of digital forensic crimes including cybercrime. It took us far too long to discover and report such crime and have still not been given the instructions or finances to pursue security improvements to solve the problems.

The current example of massive Russian interference and voting machine crimes had not been pursued to be prosecuted until now. The first international charges are currently being made with some historic international charges.

On a more local basis, the law enforcement agencies are so back logged with cases, they are desperate for manpower and financing.

The military of the U.S. is also sadly lacking in digital forensic use and investigation for our cyber security. We are vulnerable to cyber-attack from satellites controlling most of our infrastructure, from power to communications and underwater cable plus potential warfare.

Jason Freewalt, (July 27, 2014). “Rome and China – Connections Between Two Great Ancient Empires” Retrieved from Staff, (2009). “Alexander the Great,” Retrieved from Commons Citation Lillis, David; Becker, Brett A.; O’Sullivan, Tadhg; and Scanlon, Mark, (2016)., “Current Challenges and Future Research Areas for Digital Forensic Investigation” Annual ADFSL Conference on Digital Forensics, Security and Law. 6. Retrieved from of forensic science and early methods. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved February 13, 2018, from