History’s first forensic murder investigation, China, 1235 AD

In 1247 AD during the Song Dynasty of China, a book called Collected Cases of Injustice Rectified also known as The Washing Away of Wrongs was first published by Song Ci, a Chinese coroner and detective.  Essentially the book was a guide for early coroners, detailing how to determine cause of death based on forensic science.  Divided into 53 chapters and five volumes, the work details the case studies and personal observations of Song Ci. Incredibly advanced for its time, the book covers topics such as anatomy, the decay of corpses, details the wounds made by different weapons, appearance of corpses from various causes of death, and postmortem examination methods.

Among the case studies of The Washing Away of Wrongs is an anecdote now considered to be the first case of forensic entomology in history.  In 1235 AD a man was found stabbed, slashed, and hacked to death in a small village. The local magistrate inspected the victims wounds, then tested various types of blades on animal corpses, which allowed him to determine that the weapon used was a common farming sickle.   According to Song Ci, a brilliant plan was created by the magistrate to determine who was the murderer,

The local magistrate began the investigation by calling all the local peasants who could be suspects into the village square. Each was to carry their hand sickles to the town square with them. Once assembled, the magistrate ordered the ten-or-so suspects to place their hand sickles on the ground in front of them and then step back a few yards. The afternoon sun was warm and as the villagers, suspects, and magistrates waited, bright shiny metallic green flies began to buzz around them in the village square. The shiny metallic colored flies then began to focus in on one of the hand sickles lying on the ground. Within just a few minutes many had landed on the hand sickle and were crawling over it with interest. None of the other hand sickles had attracted any of these pretty flies. The owner of the tool became very nervous, and it was only a few more moments before all those in the village knew who the murderer was. With head hung in shame and pleading for mercy, the magistrate led the murderer away. The witnesses of the murder were the brightly metallic colored flies known as the blow flies which had been attracted to the remaining bits of soft tissue, blood, bone and hair which had stuck to the hand sickle after the murder was committed. The knowledge of the village magistrate as to a specific insect group’s behavior regarding their attraction to dead human tissue was the key to solving this violent act and justice was served in China.

Today The Washing Away of Wrongs has been translated into several different languages, with modern forensic scientists adding their own anecdotes and studies.  It has been esteemed by generations of public service officials and is often required reading in criminology today.

Forensic science has so many different disciplines, one which includes entomology which is the study of insects and their importance during a forensic investigation. But how did this study come to be? Take a look at the tool above. Try to think of ways this tool helped form entomology….. think you got it? 

Take yourself to 13th century China. It has been told in a story, “The washing away of wrongs” that a farmer was killed with what looked like a sharp weapon. The head master rounded all suspects and got them to put their tools, sickles (as pictured above) on the ground in front of him. The actual suspect believed he had cleaned his sickle from any visible evidence however, blow flies have a good sense of smell so many blow flies were attracted to his sickle. The man, obviously never having seen something like this, believed it was a sign from God therefore, confessed to the crime. 

Now take yourself to 18th century France. This was the first time entomological evidence was allowed and used in a court house where the skeletal remains of a baby were found behind a fireplace. The current occupants of the house were exonerated because of the evidence; the baby had been there for around 2 years due to the life stages of the insects found. 

If you look at entomology now, it has advanced so much but its crazy to see how it actually came to be! 

…every corpse seemed to brim with urgent secrets. There was something about the way steam rose from the bodies on a cold winter day, as the maggots teemed within their cavities, something about the lightning speed with which flesh melted from bone in the summer heat. Bass understood that he had a matchless opportunity to find order in the chaos…
—  Jessica Sachs’ Corpse: Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death
Insect fact of the day

The blowfly Chrysomya albiceps is a facultative predator, meaning that they will predate on other blowfly larvae if given the chance.

Because of this, care needs to be taken when determining postmortem interval in cases where C. albiceps have been found on the body in case they have arrived later than other species but have killed off their competitors.

anonymous asked:

Okay first of all you're really cute. Second, what is forensic entomology? I've seen it mentioned a few times on this page and I was wondering what it is.

Thank you >\\\<

Forensic entomology is when you take knowledge about insects and use it solve crimes. Since Calliphorid and Sarcophagid flies can find a dead body less than hour after the person expires, the development of the larvae they leave behind is one of the most accurate ways to determine a time of death. Even more of the story of the deceased can be told from the arthropods that show up later (moth larva, beetle larva, phorid flies, scavenger wasps, and even mites) answering questions of where the death occurred, how moist the area was, the temperature etc.

In addition, there are times when investigators want to get a DNA sample from a living perpetrator but can’t get a warrant or don’t want to wait for one. They can actually extract the DNA sample from the mouthparts or gut contents of any insects that have bitten the person and happen to have hung around for one reason or another. There are also circumstances where a person claims to have never been to a certain place (be it a state or country) where a crime was committed but the insects trapped within the mud encrusted in the treads of their shoes can tell an altogether different story. Many soil dwelling arthropods like collembola, diplura, or protura only live in one particular area and they can be used to invalidate alibis and inspire “reasonable doubt”

So, listening to books on forensics is fun and entertaining….

Today I learned that if you yank someone under water so that a bunch of water rushes up their nose, it can short-circuit the vagus nerve (the nerve implicated in hiccups and making your diaphragm work for breathing), leading to unconscious, drowning, and nearly instantaneous rigor mortis.

Also learned the first use of forensic entomology was in China and the investigator could tell the crime was committed with a scythe, but not who, though it was hinted that the money lender had a reason, so he had everyone in the village line up with their scythes laying by their feet…and flies went to the money lender’s scythe because it still had traces of blood despite being washed. The textbook that resulted from that case and many related studies was used for 700 years!

Anyways, really interesting.  The book I’m currently listening to is called Forensics by Val McDermid

autisticrhys  asked:

i used to be VERY afraid of bugs (especially spiders. i still am but a lot less!) but seeing u blog abt them a lot made me be interested in them, and now im pursuing a career in forensic entomology (along w pathology)! idk why i wanted to send this but please know that your blogging abt bugs is Good and blessed

wow omg thats really cool to hear… idek what to say but thank you and good luck w/ that


Despite the ancient origins of the Greek [and later, via French, Latin] suffix -logia, and eventually -ology, the addition of -ology to mean “the study of” a subject didn’t begin in earnest until the mid-1800s. A few related words (such as theology) existed before then, but it was not a commonly-used root in the sciences before that period.

Today, though, it’s a ubiquitous root, used in science and nonce words alike. Want to study some animal -ologies? Here are a few of those fields!

[Of course, many of these fields of study don’t universally use the Latin/Greek name, but it’s fun to know!]

Biology: The study of organic life. The root bio- is from the Greek bios, meaning “the way of life, the way one lives” (properly-formed example: biography), so “biology” takes some liberties with its modern definition.

Zoology: The study of animals. From Greek zoion (animal, living being).

  • Birds! Ornithology
    Extinct birds! Paleornithology
    - Bird nests! Caliology
    - Bird eggs! Oology- Nestlings! Neossology
    - Bird feathers! Pteryolology

  • Bugs! Entomology
    - Honeybees! Apiology
    All bees! Mellitology
    - Wasps! Vespology
    - Beetles! Coleopterology
    Grasshoppers! Orthopterology [rare alt. Acridilogy]
    - Flies! Dipterology
    - Ants! Myrmecology
    - Bugs on dead people! Forensic entomology
    - Pollination! Anthecology

  • Arachnids! Arachnology
    Spiders! Araneology
    - Ticks and mites! Acarology

  • Other Arthropods! Arthropodology
    Crabs! Carcinology
    - Centipedes and millipedes! Myriapodology
    Squids, octopi, and other molluscs! Malacology 
    - Shells! Conchology

  • Fish! Ichthyology
    Sharks and rays! Elasmobranchology
    - Freshwater fish! Limnobiology [full freshwater ecosystem]
    - Plankton! Planktology
    Extinct fishes! Palaeichthyology

  • Amphibians and reptiles! Herpetology [amphibians only - Amphibiology]
    - Snakes! Ophiology
    - Frogs! Batrachology
    Turtles! Cheloniology
    - Lizards and geckos! Squamatology or Saurology
    - Salamanders! Caudatology

  • Mammals! Mammology [alt. Mastology, Theriology]
    - Platypuses and echidnas! Monotreme mammalogy
    - Placental mammals! Eutheriology
    Marsupials! Metatheriology
    - Whales! Cetology
    Horses! Hippology
    - Horses but also tapirs and rhinos! Perissodactology
    - Dogs! Cynology
    Cats! Felinology
    - Primates! Primatology

Here are the maggots! If anyone can identify them that’d be awesome. From what I’ve learned in forensics they could be blowflies, though that’s unlikely as I’ve had this possum for a while and blowflies are usually the first bugs on the scene at a death. We’re doing a study on rotting flesh and entomology in forensics right now so hopefully I can learn a bit more about it and check back in with you guys. Thank you so much for even looking at my posts it means a lot to me that people are willing to even pay my rambles any mind whatsoever;;

Fly of the Dead (Cynomya mortuorum)

Some combination of watching too many crime shows, studying anthropology, and following a lot of ‘vulture culture’ blogs allowed me to immediately recognise this as a blow fly.

This species has been studied extensively in forensic entomology: because it lays eggs on carrion, its life cycle is predictive of the post-mortem interval of human cadavers.

I saw a maggot-eaten dead crow on my walk today: it’s very possible this little friend hatched on it not too long ago. It’s all part of that meaningless and grim cycle of life!

S/he seemed very happy to pose for the camera.

The Tiniest Sherlocks: Bacteria on Shoes Could Help Forensic Teams Catch Suspects

by Stefano Vanin, The Conversation

Prospective criminals should take note: bacteria are everywhere. A small pilot study has shown that the germs on personal belongings such as shoes and mobile phones are actually a useful way of tracing a person’s whereabouts – something that may prove useful in forensic investigations.

Microorganisms like bacteria are small, diverse and often specific to certain environments, organisms or individuals. This is also what makes them excellent as a forensic tool. In fact, like DNA and fingerprints, a suspect can unknowingly leave microbes behind on a crime scene or victim, providing useful information about the identity or origin of the suspect for forensic scientists. One day, such microbial signatures of individuals may prove as important as DNA or fingerprints, although a lot more research is needed to get there.

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anonymous asked:

Golly prompt: Holly + Gail + Family Man (the movie). I don't know if you watched this movie (if you aren't, do it, it's great) 10 years later in San Francisco, Holly's guardian angel shows her what would have happened if she had stayed in Toronto with Gail...

My dear Anon, I watched this movie and loved it.  I couldn’t write this prompt in 1000 words or less, so you’ve actually prompted me to write a small multi-chapter fic.  Here is Part 1 of 5. I hope you like it!  I’m just finishing up Part 5 now.  I plan on posting them once every day or two.


Part 2-Part 3-Part 4-Part 5

The Family Woman – Part 1

It’s late.  She’s been at the office all day working on her latest research article.  It was going to be published by Science, one of the most prestigious and popular science journals but she’d found a small problem with the data.  She had needed to get it sorted out before the deadline which was why she was walking to a corner store on her way home.  It was the only thing open this late on Christmas Eve, even in a city the size of San Francisco.

She tossed the overpriced, over-processed sandwich on the counter along with a questionable looking apple, and a small chocolate bar.  She deserved a treat.  The clerk started to ring in her order. 

“No big Christmas dinner?” the woman asked the now Director of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. 

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