History of Forensic Science
An Overview of Forensic Science History

Interested in the history of forensic science? Forensic science history began in China in 1248 when a man determined a sickle killed his friend... Learn how here

Forensic science reaches much farther back than you probably imagine. While a lot of what we think of today as CSI work requires modern devices and theories, there were people practicing forensics in the middle ages.

It's important to know the history of forensic science if this is a field you are interested in pursuing.

By knowing where your predecessors started, you can have a better understanding of what you're doing today, and what changes may be in store for the future.

Only with a foot in the past, a hand in the present, and an eye on the future, we can fully know our place in this world.

This is never truer than in the areas of science and medicine, where discoveries have a habit of leap-frogging one another, making improvements from pre-existing notions or materials to create far better ones for tomorrow.

If you are interested in getting a forensic science degree, or are just intrigued by the history of things (which you truly should be) then read below for a brief background of transpired events that have led up to today.

History of Forensic Science: The Beginning

The people of the ancient world were without technological and scientific advancements that we take for granted in the forensic sciences today.

Instead, they mostly relied on forced confessions and testimonies of witnesses. This, naturally, allowed for many criminals to walk free while a lot of innocents were wrongfully convicted.

The first known instance of forensics being used was in the year 1248.

A Chinese man, called a death investigator, used experimentation to determine that a victim's fatal blow had resulted from the strike of a sickle. He made everyone in the village bring their sickles together so he could determine who owned the murder weapon.

This anecdote was written by Song Ci in his book 'Washing Away of Wrongs',which went on to inform the readers how to differentiate between a strangulation and drowning victim, and how best to tell the cause of death of the deceased.

Pretty cool, right?

Forensic Science History: The Genesis of Modern Forensics

What we think of today as forensic science may have been born in China, but truly developed in Europe during the 1700's.

German medical experts, Swedish chemists, and Italian surgeons wrote books, developed theorems, and practiced routines that would eventually mature and grow into the crime scene investigation techniques that we know about today.

With the industrial revolution of the twentieth century (and the meteoric rise in the advancement of computer technologies), scientists, doctors, technicians, and law enforcement personnel have had the opportunity to create new and lasting ways in which to detect, analyze, compare, and interpret evidence left at a crime scene.

What started off as a single death investigator in China has become, throughout the history of forensic science, an army of employees all tasked with solving the crime.

Here's a look at just a few of the sub-divisions within the modern forensic science trade:

  • Forensic Accounting
  • Forensic Astronomy
  • Forensic Chemistry
  • Forensic Archaeology
  • Criminalistics
  • Digital Forensics
  • Forensic Pathology
  • Forensic Toxicology
  • Forensic Siesmology
  • And many, many, many more.

Find a School!

Think a career in criminology is for you?

Then start here & find a school for you!

Return from History of Forensic Science to Forensic Science Careers

Return from History of Forensic Science to Criminology Degree Online