The SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, in commenting on the case of an individual who had robbed a foostisy giving the hens chloroform, answers ttiB query, " when thieves get scientific, what should the police do ?" by referring the latter to its own columns. There is a great deal of common sense in this remark. The time may not be as yet, but it will be when science will be the strongest arm of the detective. We find in a late English magazine a curious instance of the extreme point of delicacy to which chemical tests have been carried. A professor ascertained accurately into which one of a number of basins of water a lady had dipped her finger. The well-known story of the detection of a railroad robbery by Ehren-berg, opens a wide field of scientific research for philosophy in aid of justice. The microscope which reveals the smallest points of identity, if once fully used, might often establish connections of which ignorant ruffians would never dream—the very mud on a man's boots being enough to identify the connection of person and place, when examined by an experienced microscopist. The utility of photography and the telegraph in detective service is already recognized, and an even careless perusal of Berk's or Stille's Medical Jurisprudence cannot fail to convince the reader that the whole subject of the application of science to justice is of itself a science as yet in embryo, yet one which is perfectly capable of developing to a degree which would vastly increase the perils to which crime is at present liable. If one great mind could devote all its powers to this end, it would do as much for justice, peace, and order, as any which the world has ever witnessed. There is no reason why as much talent and education should not be devoted to the practical execution of the law as to punishing the guilty ; in fact, we may say that the perfection of the former would be preventive, while the latter is only curative. At present, native unaided talent and experience are almost the sole qualifications employed in identifying malefactors. This is not enough. Reduced almost to certainty, this branch of justice would cast a terror over rogues which would be of the greatest service to humanity.—Philadelphia Bulletin. A child wtas poisoned, in Norfolk Co., Va., through sucking the flowers of the yellow jessamine, and died within one hour after tasting them. In one parish in England not less than $4,000 are expended annually by the working classes for laudanum.
This article was originally published with the title "Science and Justice" in Scientific American 13, 36, 283 (May 1858)