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The importance of examining a hair or fiber was documented in the early stages of forensic science. One of the first forensic science reports involving the scientific study of hair was published in France, in 1857. This introduced the idea of hair and fiber analysis and the field expanded fast in the early 20th century after microscopic hair examination became known. In 1883 a historical text on forensic science was published “The Principles and Practice of Medical Jurisprudence” by Alfred Swaine Taylor and Thomas Stevenson, where a chapter on using hair in forensic investigations was written and it included drawings of human hairs under magnification.
In 1910, a detailed study of hair titled “Le Poil de l’Homme et des Animaux” (The Hair of Man and Animals) was published by the French forensic scientists Victor Balthazard and Marcelle Lambert. Numerous microscopic studies of hairs from most animals was included in this text. In 1931 Professor John Glaister published "Hairs of Mammalia from the Medico-legal Aspect" and “A Study of Hairs and Wools Belonging to the Mammalian Group of Animals, Including a Special Study of Human Hair” (1937). He became a prominent and widely used resource for hair analysis information. In 1977, John Hick laid out the groundwork for the use of hair evidence by the forensic examiner in the publishing of "Microscopy of Hairs: A Practical Guide and Manual". In this manual, the relevance of hair and fiber analysis in the crime field was established. These publications established the accuracy and validity of hair as part of forensic science. Forensic hair analysis has played a key role in courts since the beginning of the 1900s. The academic and scientific world had to see hair analysis as an established science. The earliest examination of hairs in a criminal investigation occurred, in the murder of Duchesse de Praslin in 1847.
Doctor Edmond Locard, a French scientist, was a pioneer in Forensic Science, often informally referred to as the “Sherlock Holmes of France”, as he formulated the basic principle of forensic science: "Every contact leaves a trace", that is found of discovered by investigation. Dr Locard established that people constantly pick up and transfer bits of hair, fibre, dust and other trace material without realizing. Dr Edmond Locard established that these material exchanges were key to analysing a scene of crime. This became known as Lockard’s Exchange Principle, and it was the foundation of forensic science in the early 1900s till nowadays.
A practice of Locard’s Principe is Fiber Analysis. Transfer of fiber can happen during close contact with the victim or suspect. Textile fibers can also be transmitted from rugs or blankets by contact between two individuals, between an individual and an object, or between two objects. Analysis of fibers that are found on a victim will involve determining the types of fibers present at the scene. Fibers found throughout the crime scene will not be as significant as a fiber found on a victim (that is not present anywhere else at the scene). This is because if a similar fiber is found on a suspect, it can be a powerful piece of evidence linking the suspect to the crime.
Fiber analysis is used by law enforcement agencies worldwide, to place suspects at the scene of the crime. One of the earliest cases in England, where fibre analysis played a key role in solving a crime was, in the murder of Claire Josephs, which happened in Bromley in 1968.
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