Irrefutable Evidence: Adventures in the History of Forensic Science

Overview

The rise of scientific thinking in finding, catching, and convicting criminals—and, just as important, freeing the innocent—has transformed society's assault on crime. Before scientific detective work, early attempts to maintain public safety relied on the severity of punishment rather than any probability of apprehension. But with the rapid development of the sciences in the nineteenth century, some techniques began to spill over into more effective police work. Michael Kurland's engrossing history of forensic ...

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Irrefutable Evidence: A History of Forensic Science

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Overview

The rise of scientific thinking in finding, catching, and convicting criminals—and, just as important, freeing the innocent—has transformed society's assault on crime. Before scientific detective work, early attempts to maintain public safety relied on the severity of punishment rather than any probability of apprehension. But with the rapid development of the sciences in the nineteenth century, some techniques began to spill over into more effective police work. Michael Kurland's engrossing history of forensic science recounts this remarkable progress, which continues to the present. He traces the history of the major techniques of criminal detection and many of the minor ones. Here are Bertillon's physical measurements used to recognize habitual criminals; the study of fingerprints identifying criminals long after they have left the scene of the crime; Gravelle's comparison microscope comparing bullets to determine if they have been fired from the same gun; the development of bloodstain identification and, ultimately, the blood type involved. Mr. Kurland explains how once–accepted techniques have fallen by the wayside—handwriting analysis, for example—and how methods such as lie detectors, voice spectrum analysis, bite mark evidence, and other methods have proven unworthy. Finally Irrefutable Evidence explores the rise of modern DNA typing techniques, which have proven the innocence of many persons convicted of major crimes and resulted in the exoneration of more than two hundred on death row. With 12 black–and–white illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Foreword Reviews
Forget what you thought you learned from CSI....Turn instead to Irrefutable Evidence.
— Mardi Link
Publishers Weekly
Crime novelist Kurland (The Empress of India) takes his cue from the rash of other surveys detailing crime-solving techniques after successful shows like CSI, in an uninspired fashion. He covers the basic techniques of forensics, from fingerprinting and ballistics to blood spatter analysis and DNA. Each of the “founding fathers” gets his due: French ex-criminal-turned-detective Eugène François Vidocq, the inspiration for Poe's fictional Dupin and the first to index criminals; Alphonse Bertillon, another Frenchman and the inventor of anthropometrics (or Bertillonage), which identified criminals by physical measurements; and Edward Henry and Juan Vucetich, who, in the late 19th century, developed independently of each other the first reliable methods of classifying fingerprints. Each breakthrough is punctuated by cases illustrating its usefulness, such as computerized fingerprint databases, which led to the 1989 arrest of “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez. Kurland shifts abruptly between detailed descriptions of techniques and oversimplifications like “DNA is the stuff that people are made from,” which will surely frustrate forensic fans eager for in-depth analysis. Illus. (Nov.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566638036
  • Publisher: Ivan R Dee
  • Publication date: 10/16/2009
  • Pages: 329
  • Sales rank: 504,069
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Kurland is perhaps best known for his "Professor Moriarty" mystery novels; he is an American Book Award nominee and two–time finalist for the Edgar. Mr. Kurland's nonfiction books include How to Solve a Murder and How to Try a Murder as well as A Gallery of Rogues and The Spymaster's Handbook . He lives in Petaluma, California.

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