Definition Of Forensic Science
What Is Forensic Science

Learn the definition of forensic science, the history of forensic science, exactly what is forensic science, & if a forensic science career & degree's for you

Forensic science's definition is appropriately vague and general. Because there are so many people with very different jobs working under the umbrella of forensic science, the definition cannot be especially specific.

Instead, it encompasses the overall goal of the many dozens (or even hundreds) of officers, scientists, and technicians that are working to come to a unified conclusion.

Here is the official definition of forensic science:

  • 'Forensic science is the application of a broad spectrum of sciences to answer questions of interest to a legal system, regarding both criminal and civil actions.'

Keep reading for a closer look at what that entails as we go over a few of the departments and positions in forensic science.

Then we'll briefly explain to you the history of forensic science--after all, it's only by knowing where we come from that we can see why we're here and where we may be headed.

Definition of Forensic Science
What is Forensic Science?

Forensic science is made up of several different departments that all have specialized responsibilities and tasks.

forensic scientist examining evidence

Forensic Scientist Examining Evidence

Together, it is the job of everyone to collect, analyze, compare, and interpret evidence in order that a definitive conclusion may be made about the who, what, where, how, when, and sometimes why of a crime or action.

These departments can be broken down into categories such as Physical Sciences, Social Sciences, and Other Fields.

Let's take a look at a sample list of what specialties may belong to which categories.

Physical Sciences:

  • Forensic Pathology
  • Forensic Dentistry
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Forensic Entomology
  • Forensic Archaeology
  • Etc.

Social Sciences:

  • Forensic Psychology
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Etc.

Other Fields:

  • Fingerprint Analysis
  • Forensic Accounting
  • Ballistics
  • Body Identification
  • DNA Profiling
  • Forensic Toxicology
  • Etc.

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And, of course, within these specialties are a whole host of personnel, ranging from low-level technicians, to lab scientists, to supervisors and chiefs.

It is no wonder, then, that the definition of forensic science is so general--it encompasses an incredible number of people responsible for a great variety of jobs.

History of Forensic Science

Despite what you may think, forensic science dates back almost eight hundred years, when the first recorded instance of someone using forensic detection to solve a murder occurred in China.

Through experimentation, a man determined that a murder victim's wound was caused by a sickle tool. He ordered everyone in town to come together with their sickles to see who was carrying the murder weapon.

Before that time, people relied almost exclusively on witnesses and confessions (sometimes forced).

Naturally, this didn't lead to the cleanest or clearest justice.

Then, during the seventeenth century onwards, scientists and doctors from all over the world began to seriously develop what we know today as the modern definition of forensic science.

The advancement in science and technology during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has led to devices, practices, and theories that allow us much more conclusive results in the examination of crime scene evidence than ever before.

And it can only get more precise from here.

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