Top 10 Most Famous Forensic Scientists of All Time

Published by admin on April 28, 2010

Popular TV shows like CSI, NCIS and Dexter have spawned a renewed interesting in forensic science. Other shows, like The X-Files and now Fringe, also make use of forensic science in their plot lines. Even before television shows, though, detectives like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot used forensic techniques and deduction to solve crimes, while fascinating millions of readers.

If you are interested in solving crimes and using methods of forensic science to do so, there are plenty of real-life role models for you. Indeed, there are even a few “superstars” of the forensic science world. Here are 10 of the most famous forensic scientists:

  1. Alec JeffreysAlec Jeffreys: Sir Alec Jeffreys is not exactly a forensic scientist. However, his work on DNA profiling and fingerprinting is what paved the way for much of the analysis that is used today in modern forensic investigation. Jeffreys is a well-known geneticist, a professor at the University of Leicester in Britain. He had an epiphany about using DNA to identify people while studying X-ray images of a DNA experiment he was running in his lab. His techniques are used all over the world to catch criminals — in addition to resolving paternity disputes.
  2. Edmond Locard: Known as the “Sherlock Holmes of France” Edmond Locard was famous as a pioneer in forensic science. He pointed out that everyone leaves a trace, and even developed a 12-point method of matching fingerprints in order to identify who they belonged to. Locard and two of his assistants started the first police lab. He originally studied medicine, but became interested in solving crime after working with a criminologist, Alexandre Lacassagne.
  3. Joseph BellJoseph Bell: One of the inspirations for the literary character of Sherlock Holmes was Scotsman Joseph Bell. He was a pioneer in forensic pathology, believing that close observation was essential to crime-solving. At the time, in the late 19th Century, observations of the nature made by Bell were not often used to solve crimes. He was also a surgeon, and the personal surgeon to Queen Victoria when she was in Scotland. Some of his techniques are still used today by forensic scientists.
  4. Sara BiselSara Bisel: One of the pioneers in the field of forensic anthropology was Sara Bisel, who started using chemical and physical analysis of the skeletons found at Herculaneum, one of the cities destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79 CE. Her methods provided insight into the health of ancient populations — and even provided a basis for the chemical analysis performed on remains today in forensic science.
  5. William BassWilliam Bass: In order to better study human remains and decomposition, William Bass founded what is known as The Body Farm. This facility, the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility, has been one of the most famous training grounds in forensic science. He has pioneered ways of studying human remains, and is well versed in osteology. He is a forensic anthropologist and served as an inspiration for a crime novel by Patricia Cornwell.
  6. William MaplesWilliam Maples: William Maples made his mark studying the remains of famous historical figures, including The Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick, the dead family of Czar Nicholas II, and Zachary Taylor, one of the U.S. presidents. His book, Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist shed light on the field of forensic science, and what could be learned from studying dead remains. He is known for his ability to help solve cases that might have remained unsolved.
  7. Clea Koff: “The Bone Woman,” Clea Koff, is well-known for her work on behalf of the United Nations. She worked for the Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and also for the tribal for the formal Yugoslavia. She is a well-known forensic anthropologist who used her skills to help bring some of the perpetrators of genocide to trial. Her autobiography is The Bone Woman: Among the dead in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Croatia. She also founded the Missing Persons Identification Resource Center that focuses on helping families match up with the U.S. Coroner’s Office in order to identify bodies that are so for unidentified.
  8. Cyril WectCyril Wecht: Cyril Wecht is one of the most interesting forensic scientists alive today. He has consulted on a number of high profile cases, including speculation about the death of president John Kennedy. He has also shared thoughts on Vincent Foster, Anna Nicole Smith and Sharon Tate. He was also a consultant in the Branch Davidian case. He does private consultations, and was even charged with fraud at one point, though those charges were dropped. Wecht was concertmaster at the University of Pittsburgh (he wanted to be a musician), but he went on to get his M.D. and to serve as a coroner.
  9. Henry LeeHenry Lee: Known for his work on the JonBenét Ramsey case, as well as the Laci Peterson case, Henry Lee is almost as high profile as they come. He even worked on the O.J. Simpson case, consulted on the Vincent Foster case, and was asked for insights in the D.C. sniper shootings. He was born in China, but fled with his family to Taiwan. He has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and came to the U.S. specifically to study Forensic Science. The main blot on his career is that he is accused of evidence tampering in the Phil Spector case.
  10. Michael Baden: As the host of the HBO show Autopsy, many people recognize Michael Baden. He is also an author, writing popular non-fiction books about his work as a coroner and board certified forensic pathologist. He contributes to Fox News as an expert, and is a M.D. He has looked into past cases of murder, including those of John Belushi, JFK, Czar Nicholas II and his family, and looked into the cases of Phil Spector and O.J. Simpson. (The overlap on such cases is common; many forensic experts often go over the same cases — especially if the cases are famous. Baden is a consulting pathologist with a private practice, as well as providing expert witness testimony in court, and professional analysis on television. For one year, he was the Chief Medical Examiner for New York City.

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