In the field of forensic science, many crusaders are the ones clothed in white lab coats, hovering over bodily remains. These individuals made massive advances in the field of forensics or helped uncover the most infamous crime-cases. For all the hopelessly forensic science-addicted, we’ve compiled a list of the most fascinating trailblazers in this discipline, which hopefully include some individuals you may not have previously encountered.
1. Sara Bisel
This clever lady was a true pioneer in the field of forensic anthropology. By using chemical and physical probes, Bisel was the first to help uncover and identify the skeletons found in the ancient Roman city, Herculaneum. The city was buried under molten hot lava after the massive volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. Her forensic tools helped anthropologists’ better study the health of ancient people. Today, Bisel’s tools are the foundation of the chemical analysis forensic anthropologist performs on skeletal remains.
2. Michael Baden
Former New York City Chief Medical Examiner Michael Baden is one forensic scientist who isn’t camera shy. He’s the host of the HBO series autopsy and is an expert correspondent for the Fox News network in the US. He also runs his own private practice as a consulting pathologist. Baden gives expert witness testimony in court and consults with TV crime shows.
3. William H. Bass
Located in the University of Tennessee is the morbidly named “Body Farm”, a training facility that helps forensic scientists learning how to study and identify human remains. The founder is William Bass, invented new ways to study human remains. An osteologist (bone specialist) by training, Bass’ innovated techniques advanced forensic anthropology, which made him the basis of many a novel by famous contemporary crime writer, Patricia Cornwell.
4. Edmond Locard
An innovator in the field of forensic science, Locard created a methodical 12-step standard to help investigators identify and match fingerprints. Coined the “Sherlock Holmes of France” Locard and his team started the country’s first police lab.
5. Joseph Bell
Late 19th century forensic scientist, Joseph Bell, was actually the real-life inspiration of every forensic-geek’s favorite literary character, Sherlock Holmes. A true scientist at heart, Bell believed that close observation was integral to solving a crime. While his assertion seemed like a given today, in the late 19th century, investigators did not widely embrace scientifically rigorous observation. No wonder Holmes always conveniently pocketed a magnifying glass.
6. Cyril Wecht
With aspirations of becoming a musician, former University of Pittsburgh concertmaster, Cyril Wecht, decided to go to medical school instead. Little did he know, he would eventually become a famous coroner involved in high-profile crime cases. As a noted world expert, Wecht has consulted on the death of President John F. Kennedy, Ana Nicole Smith and Sharon Tate.
7. William Maples
Forensic anthropologist, William Maples, was famously known for solving the ‘unsolvable’ crimes. Specialising in the study of bones, Maples covered a lot of high-profile cases including the deformities of human curiosity Joseph Carey Merrick, who was widely known as ‘Elephant Man’. He helped advance forensic science by highlighting the importance of what could be learned from dead remains.
8. Sir Alex John Geoffrey
Oxford-born geneticist Sir Alec John Geoffrey’s had a eureka moment while looking at X-rays of a DNA experiment he ran in his lab: why not use unique DNA pieces to identify people? That eventually led to the widely-used technology of DNA profiling, which locates unique DNA sequences. While most of our genomes look relatively similar, DNA profiling zooms in on specific DNA sequences that are unique to each and every one of us. Thus, it helps forensic analysts identify people in any crime scene investigation.
9. Clea Koff
Clea Koff is the world’s real-life “Bones”. A forensic anthropologist, her work with the United Nations-based Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was pivotal in identifying and bringing some of the genocide culprits to trial. She also helped identify remains in many other victims of genocide, including the 1995 genocide in Bosnia. She details her work in her autobiography The Bone Woman: Among the dead in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Croatia. Koff also founded the Missing Persons Identification Resource Center, which helps families connect with the US Coroner’s Office to uncover bodies that have yet to be identified.
10. Henry Lee
What do Phil Spector and OJ Simpson have in common (aside from being accused murders)? Their cases were evaluated at the hands of one forensic scientist, Henry Lee. Born in China, Lee equipped himself with a Ph.D in Biochemistry and moved his family to Taiwan, only to later come to the United States to study forensic science.
Your Turn: Are there any forensic geniuses we may have missed in this particular list? Feel like someone was undeservedly appointed while another favourite lost out? Let us know in the comments — we’d love to hear from you (we’re also in Directories, here and here now around the web!)