|A criminal invariably leaves a trace of themselves behind at the scene of a crime – a scrap of fabric, a fingerprint, a strand of hair, perhaps even a bloodstain. These clues and traces of evidence, if found, herald the beginning of an exciting hunt that may provide the proof necessary to bring the criminal to justice.
“Who did it?” “How did it happen?” “Can you prove it?” Science can often provide the answer to these questions. Forensic science is the use of science in courts, legal proceedings or criminal investigations. Forensic Science can involve any area of science that might be helpful in a court case or solving crime. No matter what area of science you study, it is about being curious and answering questions.
Without forensic science, there would be no way of identifying a criminal unless they were caught “red handed” – in the act of committing the crime. Forensic science provides us with tools to help identify the criminal, even if he or she has left the scene.
People have been analysing evidence for hundreds of years. Arabs in the 7th century were using fingerprints to identify people and Chinese in the 13th century could differentiate between people who had drowned or were strangled by studying their bodies.
Modern forensic science took off in the middle of the 19th century. By 1850, police were beginning to look for clues at the crime scene, and scientists began to take an interest. The first forensic science laboratory was set up in Paris in 1868. At a crime scene, detectives take notes, interview witnesses and collect evidence. Forensic scientists also assist in the collecting evidence and examine it back at the lab. Some forensic scientists specialise in a particular area, such as ballistics (firearms), chemicals, poisons or documents. There are heaps of exciting careers in forensic science and many universities offer degrees to get you started.
& Forensic scientists need to be very observant. They pay close attention to detail and accurately record their results. Forensic scientists must also be very patient and thorough with their investigations. They are often called upon as expert witnesses in court and must clearly explain to a judge and jury how they carried out their experiments and what their results mean. This evidence may mean the difference between& a suspect being convicted or walking free.