Forensic science

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Forensic science (often shortened to forensics) is the application of a broad spectrum of sciences to answer questions of interest to a legal system. This may be in relation to a crime or a civil action. The word forensic comes from the Latin adjective forensis, meaning "of or before the forum." In Roman times, a criminal charge meant presenting the case before a group of public individuals in the forum. Both the person accused of the crime and the accuser would give speeches based on their side of the story. The individual with the best argument and delivery would determine the outcome of the case. This origin is the source of the two modern usages of the word forensic – as a form of legal evidence and as a category of public presentation.

In modern use, the term "forensics" in the place of "forensic science" can be considered correct as the term "forensic" is effectively a synonym for "legal" or "related to courts". However the term is now so closely associated with the scientific field that many dictionaries include the meaning that equates the word "forensics" with "forensic science".

Contents

History

Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The ancient world lacked standardized forensic practices, which aided criminals in escaping punishment. Criminal investigations and trials relied on forced confessions and witness testimony. However ancient sources contain several accounts of techniques that foreshadow the concepts of forensic science developed centuries later, such as the "Eureka" legend told of Archimedes (287–212 BC).[1] The first written account of using medicine and entomology to solve (separate) criminal cases is attributed to the book of Xi Yuan Lu (translated as "Washing Away of Wrongs"[2][3]), written in Song Dynasty China by Song Ci (宋慈, 1186–1249) in 1248. In one of the accounts, the case of a person murdered with a sickle was solved by a death 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. The book also offered advice on 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. Police started using fingerprints for evidence when Juan Vucetich solved a murder case in Argentina by cutting off a piece of door with a bloody fingerprint on it.[4]

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