The science of forensics is the application of science to criminal and civil laws which is mainly on the criminal side during a criminal investigation, as governed by the legal standards of admissible evidence and criminal procedure. Forensic scientists work is to collect, preserve, and analyze the scientific evidence during the course of any investigation. While some forensic scientists travel to the crime scene for the collection of the evidence themselves, others occupy a laboratory role and perform analysis on objects brought to them by other individuals.
Forensic scientists in addition to their laboratory work also testify as expert witnesses in both criminal and civil cases. They can work for either the prosecution or the defense. While any field could technically be forensic, there are certain portions that have developed over time to encompass the majority of cases which are related to forensics. This field of science is the amalgamation of two different Latin words: forensic and science. The former, forensic is related to a discussion or examination performed in public. It carries a strong judicial connotation because trials in the ancient world were typically held in public. The second word is science, which is derived from the Latin word for knowledge. Science is today closely tied to the scientific methodologies which can be considered as a systematic way of achieving knowledge. When taken together, forensic science comes out to be the use of scientific methods and processes in crime solving.
Progression of Forensic Science
In Europe in near about 16th-century, medical practitioners in army and university settings started gathering information on the cause and manner of death. A French army surgeon, Ambroise Paré, studied the effects of violent death on internal organs very systematically. Two Italian surgeons, Fortunato Fidelis, and Paolo Zacchia started modern pathology by studying changes which occurred in the structure of the body as the result of any disease. Writings on these topics began to appear in the late 18th century which included A Treatise on Forensic Medicine and Public Health by the French physician Francois Emmanuele Fodéré.
Because of the rational values of the Enlightenment era which increasingly permeated society in the 18th century, the investigation related to crimes became more based on the evidence. The rational procedure which is the use of torture for forcing confessions was curtailed, and belief in witchcraft and other powers of the occult mostly ceased to influence the decisions of the court. Two examples of English forensic science determine the increment in use of logic and procedure in criminal investigations at the time. In 1784, in Lancaster, John Toms was tried and convicted for the murder of Edward Culshaw by using a pistol. On examining the dead body of Culshaw, a pistol wad found in his head wound matched perfectly with a torn newspaper which was found in the pocket of Tom, leading to the conviction. Another example was of 1816 in Warwick where a farm laborer was tried and convicted for murdering a young maidservant. She had been drowned in a pool which was shallow and bore the marks of violent assault. The police found footprints and an impression from the cloth which had a sewn patch in the damp earth near the pool. Scattered grains of wheat and chaff were also there. The breaches of a laborer who worked on a farm and had been threshing wheat nearby were examined and matched exactly to the impression in the earth near the pool.
The analysis of Forensic DNA was first used in 1984 and was developed by Sir Alec Jeffreys. He realized the use of variation in the genetic code for the identification of individuals. It can make individuals apart from one another. Jefferys used the DNA profiles primarily in a double murder mystery of Narborough, Leicestershire in 1985 in which a school girl of 15 years old was raped and murdered in Carlton Hayes psychiatric hospital. The police did not find a suspect but were able to obtain a sample of semen. Another 15 years old girl, Dawn Ashworth, was also raped and strangled in a nearby village of Enderby in 1986. Forensic evidence determined that both the killers had the same blood type. Richard Buckland became the suspect as he used to work at Carlton Hayes psychiatric hospital and also had been spotted near the murder scene. He knew the unreleased details about the body. Later, he confessed to Dawn's murder but not Lynda's.
In 1897, a Fingerprint Bureau was established in Calcutta, India after the Council of the Governor General approval of a committee report which says that fingerprints should be used for the classification of criminal records. Dr. Henry P. DeForrest in the United States used fingerprinting in the New York Civil Service in 1902, and by December 1905, New York City Police Department Deputy Commissioner Joseph A. Faurot who was an expert in the Bertillon system and a fingerprint advocate at Police Headquarters introduced the fingerprinting of criminals.
If you want to become a forensic scientist then it is not always a pre-requisite to have completed a forensic course or any forensic training. But after observing the competition in the job market, a degree or postgraduate award in forensic science is naturally of great advantage. There are many successful applicants who have no specific forensic science training or experience but have a relevant science degree or an appropriate technical background. Degrees relating to chemistry, life sciences, biology, medical sciences or applied sciences are likely to be the most appropriate. This depends on the type of forensic work you want to do. After this, other aspects are also considered, such as relevant work experience and personal attributes and skills. The positions of forensic science for sworn police officers are within the crime scene division. There is no prerequisite qualification, such as a science degree for this division. The positions are generally for Senior Constables, which are achievable after a few years in operational duties. Staff is usually expected to complete a qualification first like an Advanced Diploma of Public Safety after commencing.
Gather more information on various career paths before taking any final decision. We on our website provide a career guide and many future bright programs. You can check these links and know more about career options:
By: Preeti Narula
Posted By - Assistant Editor