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by Colin Beavan


400 A.D.       Anglo-Saxons conjure “evidence” of criminal guilt during supernatural ordeals.


1215 A.D.     Pope Innocent III forbids clergy from taking part in ordeals. System of investigating juries begins in England.


1504 A.D.     Henry VII ratifies first law calling for eyewitness testimony. The word “evidence” is introduced into English law.


1764 A.D.     In Italy, Cesare Beccaria publishes Dei deletti e delle pene (Crimes and Punishement), heralding the rationalization of law and the burgeoning of prisons.


1812 A.D.     In France, François-Eugéne Vidocq establishes Europe’s first official detective branch and pioneers the use of physical evidence.


1816 A.D.     Britain opens first national penitentiary at Millbank.


1842 A.D.     Vidocq-style detective force established in Britain.


1858 A.D.     William Herschel begins privately experimenting with fingerprints in India.


1863 A.D.     Garroting epidemic scares public that hordes of criminals, once dispatched by the hangman or deportation, now roam the streets of London.


1869 A.D.     Habitual Criminals Act in England provides longer sentences for hardened criminal with previous convictions. Need to identify prior offenders first arises in Britain.


1870 A.D.     “The Claimant” sues for the title of Baronet of Tichborne, falsely identifying himself as the true heir, who was lost at sea fifteen years earlier. This case eventually sparks fingerprint concept in Dr. Henry Fauld’s mind.


1877 A.D.     Herschel, still in India, begins year-long use of fingerprints as signatures on land titles and jailers’ warrants.


1878 A.D.     Faulds, a Scottish missionary working in Japan, discovers fingerprints on ancient pottery and begins extensive experiments.


1880 A.D.     Faulds becomes the first person to publicly suggest fingerprints as a method of criminal investigation in a letter published in Nature.


1883 A.D.     Alphonse Bertillon, in Paris, identifies his first habitual criminal using his newly installed anthropometric system of measurements.


1886 A.D.     Henry Faulds begins trying to convince Scotland Yard to adopt fingerprints.


1888 A.D.     Francis Galton begins experimenting with fingerprints as a means of determining physical and intellectual prowess [eugenics].


1892 A.D.     In Argentina, fingerprint evidence leverages a confession from a mother who murdered her two children, though news of the case does not reach Europe for many years.


1893 A.D.     Edward Henry, chief of police in Bengal, India, adds thumbprints to the anthropometric records he began taking the previous year.


1894 A.D.     Britain adopts an identification systems which is hybrid of anthropometry and fingerprints.


1896 A.D.     Adolf Beck, an innocent man, is jailed for five years after being wrongfully recognized, as a known con artist by police and a witness. Fingerprints would have shown he was the wrong man.


1897 A.D.     Henry’s assistant Azizul Haque comes up with a comprehensive system for classifying fingerprints, making practical their use without [anthropometric] measurements.


1901 A.D.     Britain adopts the fingerprints classification system developed largely by Haque, but which has come to be known as the “Henry classification system.”


1902 A.D.     Harry Jackson found guilty of burglary on evidence of fingerprints. First time fingerprints used to prove guilt in a British courtroom.


1904 A.D.     United States Bureau of Identification establishes fingerprint collection.


1905 A.D.     The Stratton brothers are tried and hanged on fingerprint evidence for the vicious murder of Thomas and Ann Farrow. Henry Faulds takes their side against the police.


1911 A.D.     Thomas Jennings is the first to be convicted of murder in the United States on the basis of fingerprint evidence.


1938 A.D.     Scottish judge George Wilton begins campaign for Faulds’s recognition as a fingerprint pioneer.


1987 A.D.     American fingerprint experts restore Faulds’s grave.


1999 A.D.     Federal Bureau of Investigation installs massive fingerprint computer capable of storing the fingerprints of 65 million individuals.




by Royal Canadian Mounted Police


1891 A.D.     Captain Juan Vucetich a young Argentinian police captain changed forensic science forever with the first use of fingerprint evidence left at the crime scene (latent fingerprint) to solve the dual murder of two young children.


1983 A.D.     A young woman was found sexually assaulted and murdered in a small town near Leicester, United Kingdom. After an intensive police investigation the case remained unsolved. Three years later, under similar circumstance and in a nearby town, another young woman was sexually assaulted and murdered. A suspect was eventually identified in the second case. Police investigators sent samples of forensic evidence from both crime scenes and a sample of the suspect's blood to Dr. Alec Jeffreys, a prominent British scientist conducting research in evolution using DNA...


1989 A.D.    In early April, the RCMP first used DNA analysis in an investigation of a sexual assault in Ottawa, Ontario. The victim visually identified her assailant but the suspect denied any involvement in the sexual assault. DNA analysis later confirmed the suspect was the perpetrator. In mid trial but after the DNA evidence was presented, the suspect suddenly changed his plea to guilty.


1995 A.D.    [Canadian] Parliament made history when Bill C-104 was unanimously passed in a single day which, enabled a judge to issue a warrant allowing police to obtain DNA evidence from suspects in a criminal investigation.


1998 A.D.     A special DNA typing task force led by the RCMP which included scientist from both the RCMP and the Centre of Forensic Sciences, used DNA analysis to help identify human remains from the Swissair Flight 111 disaster.


2000 A.D.    Launch of the [Canadian] National DNA Data Bank, and proclamation of Bill C-3, enabling a judge to authorize collection of DNA samples from offenders convicted of designated offences.