Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Father of Forensics: The Groundbreaking Cases of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, and the Beginnings of Modern CSI” as Want to Read:
The Father of Forensics: The Groundbreaking Cases of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, and the Beginnings of Modern CSI
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  516 ratings  ·  54 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
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Father of Forensics, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Father of Forensics

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  516 ratings  ·  54 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Father of Forensics: The Groundbreaking Cases of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, and the Beginnings of Modern CSI
Mar 12, 2012 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
Jun 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
A fascinating book about the Father of Forensics. Sir Bernard Spilsbury wasn't in it for fame (Even though he got it) and he wasn't in it for the money, in fact part of the reason he was used so much was because he charged so little, he did what he did because of his love of the job, the science and solving the old "whodunit" puzzle.

He drastically changed the face of forensics and the use of medical experts in court. He studied the scene, the body inside and out and the killer meticulously, all
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 07, 2014 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
Mar 14, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading this book though I must admit to skimming the excruciatingly detailed parts about the background of the legal aspects of the cases. I get it, Sir Spilsbury was *the* go to guy for expert testimony. No need to reiterate it over and over.
This book would have been greatly improved by focusing more on what happened with the murders and how Spilsbury found compelling evidence one way or the other and less on details about the trials.
Jun 06, 2016 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 I fe
Sep 12, 2013 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
Katherine Addison
Biography of Sir Bernard Spilsbury. Does what it says on the tin.

Since Spilsbury was a man consumed by his work, it's not surprising that the most interesting aspect of the book is Evans' discussion of the cases Spilsbury testified in, from George Joseph Smith (the Brides in the Bath man) and Hawley Harvey Crippen to the Wartime Ripper, Gordon Cummins. Evans writes very clearly, both about the murders and about the forensics of catching the killers, and he's very careful to include discussion of
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.
Jul 31, 2008 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 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be really interesting. As someone who worked a bit in pathology, I'm always interested in learning about forensics. Spilsbury set the pace for everyone who came after him. He dealt with some of the most important cases at the turn of the 20th century. Many of these cases I was familar with already, but this book provided more info on how these murderers were caught and prosecuted. Prosecution could always count on Spilsbury to provide evidence in court that could stand up in ...more
Miranda Grant
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though I disagree with the title claiming Sir Bernard Spilsbury was the father of forensics (I'm a Vidocq fan all the way), it was still a very interesting and enjoyable read. It gives a good insight into the early 20th century in England amongst all of the crime cases. Furthermore, it also gives references at the end of each chapter, which I greatly applaud.

I particularly like the way Colin Evans goes into detail about the forensics and all of the steps taken for the scientists to reach their c
Mrs J M Carden
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jolly Good Read

Exceedingly interesting and well written, I'm not a great fan of biographies but this book blends biographical detail with case histories which makes for an easier read. If I have one complaint it is that the cases mentioned in the epilogue weren't included in the main body of the book, the individuals Spilsbury saved from the gallows are as interesting as those he condemned to it.
Aug 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Those with an interest in forensics will enjoy this book. The history is framed around some of the more sensational cases Sir Spilsbury worked on. It is also partly a social history of the early 20th century. Very enjoyable special interest biography.
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely fascinating read
Carol Mundie
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is about one man's life career and some of his big profile cases and his life. I enjoyed this book. If you are interested in forensics and police procedure in the early twentieth century this is a good book with interesting cases and one man's dedication to his work. ...more
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well researched and interesting. This used a varied range of cases that are not the ones usually drawn from.
Sep 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed this book, though it was a bit gory at times. Interesting portrait of the development of forensics from Victorian times until the late 1940’s.
Julian Cribb
May 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bernard Spilsbury was the first truly professional pathologist to work in the field and he established many of the principles of the modern science of medical crime detection. Working at the very frontier of the science of his day, for half a century from 1900 onwards, Spilsbury bestrode both the laboratory and the courtroom like a colossus. His lucid, factual, uncompromisingly truthful testimony put the noose around the necks of some of the most brutal, cold-hearted and sanguinary killers of Br ...more
Oct 14, 2013 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
Apr 09, 2012 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 have ...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 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
David Nadolny
Aug 29, 2011 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 :)
Dec 08, 2012 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.
Bill Sleeman
Dec 20, 2013 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.

Jun 13, 2010 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. ...more
Cameron Casey
Aug 09, 2012 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? ...more
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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. ...more
« previous 1 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime
  • Cause of Death
  • Written in Bone: Hidden Stories in What We Leave Behind
  • All That Remains: A Life in Death
  • Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner
  • The Dark Side of the Mind: True Stories from My Life as a Forensic Psychologist
  • Traces: The Memoir of a Forensic Scientist and Criminal Investigator
  • The Body: A Guide for Occupants
  • When the Dogs Don't Bark: A Forensic Scientist’s Search for the Truth
  • The Jakarta Method: Washington's Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World
  • American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century
  • The Cat Who Went Underground (Cat Who... #9)
  • The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare (Cat Who..., #7)
  • The Man With a Load of Mischief (Richard Jury, #1)
  • The Cat Who Saw Red (Cat Who... #4)
  • The Cat Who Played Post Office (Cat Who..., #6)
  • The Peterkin Papers
  • A Fever in the Heart and Other True Cases (Crime Files, #3)
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

You’d never know it from reading the books listed here, but good science writing is incredibly difficult to pull off. There is both an art...
23 likes · 0 comments