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The Father of Forensics: The Groundbreaking Cases of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, and the Beginnings of Modern CSI
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The Father of Forensics: The Groundbreaking Cases of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, and the Beginnings of Modern CSI

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  350 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Before there was CSI, there was one man who saw beyond the crime-and into the future of forensic science.

His name was Bernard Spilsbury-and, through his use of cutting-edge science, he single-handedly brought criminal investigations into the modern age. Starting out as a young, charismatic physician in early twentieth-century Britain, Spilsbury hit the English justice sy
Paperback, 326 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by Berkley Trade
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Mar 12, 2012 Converse rated it liked it
Bernard Spillsbury (1877-1947) was a British pathologist who in addition became a crime scene investigator and expert witness. During his lifetime he enjoyed a great deal of publicity in the press. Although his primary associations were with teaching hospitals in London, first St. Mary's and then St. Bartholomew's, he investigated crime scenes and did autopsies for the government department in charge of the English police forces, the Home office (Scotland has a separate legal system, so he was r ...more
Apr 03, 2014 Phillipa rated it liked it
Saw this book of my sister's at my gran's house. She'd borrowed it and had just finished reading it, so I quickly swiped it so I could read it before she gave it back ;)

It was certainly an interesting read. Not especially gripping in a murder-mystery kinda way. And I didn't come away feeling like this guy was *that* amazing. I guess he was pretty amazing at the time, and in England. But it felt like saying he was The Father of Forensics was a bit of a stretch. It read more like he was The Father
May 23, 2014 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book if a bit hard going at times - the reason I say that it is hard going as it does go in to great details of the cases and prosecutions that Bernard Spilsbury was involved with. Now the book is about forensics and its movement from almost pseudo science to the powerful legal tool kit kit is today, however even though the author makes the point that there is little known or published about Bernard Spilsbury this book acts almost as a professional biography.
This book does
Until I picked up this book I had never heard of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, but in his day he was a household name.

Nowadays the forensic pathologist is commonplace in court and people are well aware of the general types of things that they can do with fingerprints, DNA analysis, projectiles and crime scene investigation. But at the turn of the 19th century the English were well behind their continental cousins with regards to ascertaining the facts behind murders and deaths of people.

Spilsbury was
Eileen Goodwin
Oct 16, 2016 Eileen Goodwin rated it liked it
Amazing how in a century the field of forensics took off. With the pioneers Ike Sir Bernard Spilsbury the field of law and medicine grew to what it is today.
Jul 01, 2016 Taylor rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in forensics, true crime
I'm one of those people who spends more time than anyone should admit watching Forensic Files. Not to mention plenty of fake or "based on real events" crime shows, like CSI and Criminal Minds. I never got heavy into Law & Order but I've watched some of that, too. Oh and how could I forget true crime miniseries like The Jinx and Making a Murderer, and the only podcast I've ever really listened to is the first season of Serial about Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee. I eat that shit up.

At some point
Sep 17, 2013 dejah_thoris rated it really liked it
Another excellent book about the history of forensic pathology from Colin Evans. Instead of a compilation of cases, like his other works I've been reading, this one focuses solely on one practitioner, Sir Bernard Spilsbury. Like many Victorian men, he threw himself into his work wholeheartedly and became a leader in the developing field of forensic pathology. Several cases are covered over the course of his career including Hawley Harvey Crippen, the "Brides in the Bath" killer George Joseph Smi ...more
Dec 21, 2013 Charlotte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating collection of cases from the early 20th century, detailing how Sir Spilsbury helped define the role of pathology in modern murder investigations. The writing style was good, though I got the sense that the author may be American by some of the turns of phrased used throughout the book. If he is in fact British, then this must be a deliberate way to appeal to American readers, particularly with the title Modern Csi. I did find the author a touch too in awe of Spilsbury. Too high a p ...more
May 03, 2012 R_ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book makes one wonder just how many sinister people have indeed gotten away with murder. If there is not someone around like Spilsbury who can put the pieces (no pun intended) together, murder may go unsolved & unpunished. The writers for CSI (NY, LA, Miami, Antarctica...etc etc etc) need only study this book for many potential scripts. One aside: I read the "Kindle Edition" and there were no photos (not even cover art). This seems to be the kind of book that could potentially h ...more
Andrea Hickman Walker
Sir Bernard Spilsbury investigated a lot of cases and this is the story of his life and how he made immense advances in the field. It's also an account of his personality, by all accounts a formidable one. It details the mistakes he occasionally made and the consequences of that (at least, I think that's in this book. I have a few and that's in one of them, but I can't actually tell which one off the top of my head).

It's an interesting account of both the advances in forensics and getting the sc
Nov 02, 2014 Caleb rated it really liked it
Very interesting book about the early stages of crime screen investigation in England. Mr Spilsbury reminded me a little more of Perry Mason I guess. He investigated the crime sceen when possible and also performed autopsies. His methodical and exact approach to his work, combined with his exact and self assured courtroom presentation, propelled medical evidence in criminal cases into the modern age. On a sad note his entire focus on his work life brought about difficulties with his home life. A ...more
Dec 10, 2012 Nellie rated it it was amazing
Well written and an enjoyable read, this book covers cases that Bernard Spilsbury worked over the course of his life, helping to highlight his career and his knowledge of forensic science. There were many people involved in the creation of forensic science as we know it today, but Sir Spilsbury certainly did a great deal toward bringing it to light that science was an extremely helpful tool in investigation of crime. I very much enjoyed this book.
David Nadolny
Jan 21, 2012 David Nadolny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up for research on the 1905-1914 criminolgy section I am writing for a RPG game book. My intent was research, but boy was I surprised. In addition to have a great information on what state of the art forensics was available in the time frame I needed, it was also exceedingly well written, both from a technical standpoint, but also in such a manner that made it readable as stories. As many people know, reading a text book is far harder than reading a novel :)
Bill Sleeman
Dec 31, 2013 Bill Sleeman rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-law

The Father of Forensics: The Groundbreaking Cases of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, and the Beginnings of Modern CSI is a very interesting and well researched book. Author Colin Evans has done a great job of combining the front-page crimes with the mundane ones to weave together a compelling history of how one individual, Bernard Spilsbury (, helped create a scientific movement.

Interesting biography into the life and times of Spilsbury and his impact in convincing judges, jurors and the press on the value of forensic evidence, especially when given by an expert with great honesty, an ability to relay complex medical issues to laymen and who had impeccable honesty. His later years where quite sad.
Cameron Casey
Aug 09, 2012 Cameron Casey rated it really liked it
Turn of the century Sherlock Holmes. Very interesting view on the legal system, thru the eyes of a forensic scientist, at the turn of the century. Spilsbury was a fascinating man and while this book goes into great detail about the high-profile cases he worked on, it leaves out the man himself. What was he like when he wasn't on the stand or in front of others?
Jun 21, 2010 Kristy rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This book covers a handful of pivitol cases in which Spilsbury was involved during his career. It is a most fascinating look at forensics at the turn of the century in England; it's truly amazing how much Spilsbury and a few select others advanced science in their lifetimes. An easy read, this is a great choice for those interested in history or science...or even murder mysteries.
Midnight Blue
May 14, 2016 Midnight Blue rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book detailing the career of Sir Bernard Spillsbury and the forensic detective work that made him Great Britain's go to medico legal expert witness for more than 30 years of the early twentieth Century. In depth look at some of the most gripping and horrific cases in the annals of crime, A must-read for fans of CSI.
May 31, 2015 Sarah rated it it was amazing
This is just a fun, interesting read. I read it as a collection of interesting crime cases and how the experts unraveled the truth. I didn't find Spilsbury to be a Sherlock or anything on that level, and to call him the father of forensics seems like a stretch at best. However, as a collection of crime stories, very interesting and at times entertaining.
Sep 07, 2012 Marya rated it really liked it
This book is organized chronologically, each chapter around one or two cases that demonstrate the evolving work of this early forensic pathologist. I actually found myself more interested in the details of the cases than the detective himself. Totally gripping.
May 22, 2014 Kai rated it liked it
Overall, this was a quick read with some interesting cases, but at times it edged towards the sensational/melodramatic, and I felt it focused too much on Spilsbury at the cost of largely ignoring the people around him.
Jul 31, 2008 Deanne rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes true crime and has an interest in forensics
I'd heard of Sir Spilsbury before as I'd read true crime books mainly dealing with British murders ie Dr Crippen.
This book focuses on some of his most famous cases, and his professional career.
Fascinating book about a fascinating man.
Nov 16, 2013 Jolovessnow rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, non-fiction
Interesting to see the birth of forensics. Spilsbury was brilliant & made some important advances to homicide investigation "tools" for British police. Seeing the types of crimes that he investigated and how they changed over his career was both informative & a bit sad for humanity.
Although I was an anthropology major, I knew nothing about Spilsbury or the history of forensic science. This was a real learning experience for me, and I felt worth my time. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone interested in turn of the 20th century crime or forensic history.
Sarah Duncan
Apr 15, 2010 Sarah Duncan rated it it was amazing
This story was awe-inspiring. It was absolutely amazing what one man accomplished, and how much he helped the justice system in the early 1900s in Great Britain. Bernard Spilsbury lived a truly amazing life!
Beth Rear
Sep 13, 2011 Beth Rear rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Didn't finish this - but what I did read was good. Fast read - great if you are into CSI/true crime/police procedurals.
Jan 03, 2009 Jessica rated it really liked it
This was a really fascinating book. If you like crime dramas on TV, you'll enjoy this book. It's a really interesting history.
Oct 02, 2011 Melanie rated it really liked it
A bit dry, but a fascinating peek at the development of the importance of medical/forensic science in the advancement of modern justice.
Wendy Lu
Jan 28, 2013 Wendy Lu rated it really liked it
very interesting and well written :) i imagine the work and the research for this was very enjoyable.
Kristen Doherty
Jan 24, 2010 Kristen Doherty rated it it was amazing
Learned a lot about how Forensics was back in the early 1900. He was a great detective in forensics. Its to bad he committed suicide.
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Colin Evans is the author of 17 books dealing with forensics and true crime. His fascination with the murkier side of human nature began while he was still in school. Hours spent in library archives researching contemporary newspaper accounts about "Jack the Ripper" (no, he doesn't have any clues to the killer's identity, and he seriously doubts that anyone else does, either) got him started and i ...more
More about Colin Evans...

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