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Inception: Ancient Times
664-30 BC: The first recorded application of medical knowledge to the solution of a crime, a papyrus records the Egyptian physician Imuthes examining the body of a murder victim in a case that can be placed somewhere around 3000 BC.
First Organized Practice: China in the Song Dynasty
1247 AD: A landmark milestone for forensic science was the publication of “Collected Cases of Injustice Rectified” (Xi Yuan Ji Lu) by Song Ci in China. The book is considered the earliest known text focused on forensic science, giving advice on various types of forensic examinations, such as the analysis of wounds, poisoning, drowning, and personal identification.
Establishment of Modern Forensic Techniques: 19th Century
1835: The first systematic application of science to the field of crime investigation was in 1835 when Scotland Yard created a department where detectives applied scientific techniques to detect crime.
Development of Fingerprint Analysis
1892: The use of fingerprint analysis began with Sir Francis Galton, a British scientist and cousin of Charles Darwin. He documented fingerprints as a means of identification, marking a significant milestone in forensic science.
Development of Forensic Toxicology
1850: Jean Servais Stas, a Belgian chemist, was the first to successfully detect a poison (nicotine) in a deceased individual’s body, thus creating the field of forensic toxicology.
20th Century Breakthroughs
1901: A systematic and standardised system of fingerprint identification, developed by Edward Henry, was officially adopted by the Metropolitan Police in London.
1910: The world’s first state-funded forensic science laboratory was founded by Edmund Locard in France. The famous ‘Locard’s Exchange Principle’ points to the mutual exchange of evidence between the crime scene and those involved.
1950s and 1960s: Microscopic comparison of bullets to specific firearms became a regularly used technique in the investigative process.
Development of DNA-Based Forensics
1984: The discovery of DNA fingerprinting by Sir Alec Jeffreys significantly revolutionized the field of forensic science. DNA profiling has since been used to both convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent.
21st Century Advances
2001: Facial recognition technology, already in experimental use since the late 20th century, witnessed significant advancements post the incidences of 9/11.
2003: The completion of the Human Genome Project opened the door to understanding various aspects of human genetics, proving enormously beneficial to forensic sciences for identifying individuals and determining relationships.
2010s: The advent of digital forensics, including cybersecurity forensics, has become increasingly important as the prevalence of digital crimes rises.