Thursday, November 24, 2011

This Day in History: Nov 24, 1932: The FBI Crime Lab opens its doors for business

The crime lab that is now referred to as the FBI Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory officially opens in Washington, D.C., on this day in 1932. The lab, which was chosen because it had the necessary sink, operated out of a single room and had only one full-time employee, Agent Charles Appel. Agent Appel began with a borrowed microscope and a pseudo-scientific device called a helixometer. The helixometer purportedly assisted investigators with gun barrel examinations, but it was actually more for show than function. In fact, J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, provided the lab with very few resources and used the "cutting-edge lab" primarily as a public relations tool. But by 1938, the FBI lab added polygraph machines and started conducting controversial lie detection tests as part of its investigations. In its early days, the FBI Crime Lab worked on about 200 pieces of evidence a year. By the 1990s, that number multiplied to approximately 200,000. Currently, the FBI Crime Lab obtains 600 new pieces of criminal evidence everyday.

Also on This Day

Lead Story
Origin of Species is published, 1859
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, a groundbreaking scientific work by British naturalist Charles Darwin, is published in England. Darwin's theory argued that organisms gradually evolve through a process he called "natural selection." In natural selection, organisms with genetic variations that suit their environment tend to propagate more descendants than organisms of the same species that lack the variation, thus influencing the overall genetic makeup of the species. Darwin, who was influenced by the work of French naturalist Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck and the English economist Thomas Mathus, acquired most of the evidence for his theory during a five-year surveying expedition aboard the HMS Beagle in the 1830s. Visiting such diverse places as the Galapagos Islands and New Zealand, Darwin acquired an intimate knowledge of the flora, fauna, and geology of many lands. This information, along with his studies in variation and interbreeding after returning to England, proved invaluable in the development of his theory of organic evolution. The idea of organic evolution was not new. It had been suggested earlier by, among others, Darwin's grandfather Erasmus Darwin, a distinguished English scientist, and Lamarck, who in the early 19th century drew the first evolutionary diagram—a ladder leading from one-celled organisms to man. However, it was not until Darwin that science presented a practical explanation for the phenomenon of evolution. Darwin had formulated his theory of natural selection by 1844, but he was wary to reveal his thesis to the public because it so obviously contradicted the biblical account of creation. In 1858, with Darwin still remaining silent about his findings, the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace independently published a paper that essentially summarized his theory. Darwin and Wallace gave a joint lecture on evolution before the Linnean Society of London in July 1858, and Darwin prepared On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection for publication. Published on November 24, 1859, Origin of Species sold out immediately. Most scientists quickly embraced the theory that solved so many puzzles of biological science, but orthodox Christians condemned the work as heresy. Controversy over Darwin's ideas deepened with the publication of The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871), in which he presented evidence of man's evolution from apes. By the time of Darwin's death in 1882, his theory of evolution was generally accepted. In honor of his scientific work, he was buried in Westminster Abbey beside kings, queens, and other illustrious figures from British history. Subsequent developments in genetics and molecular biology led to modifications in accepted evolutionary theory, but Darwin's ideas remain central to the field.
American Revolution
Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant dies, 1807
John Froelich, inventor of the gas-powered tractor, is born, 1849
Civil War
Union troops prevail at the Battle of Lookout Mountain, 1863
Cold War
"Hollywood 10" cited for contempt of Congress, 1947
The FBI Crime Lab opens its doors for business, 1932
Ferry sinks in Yellow Sea, killing hundreds, 1999
General Interest
Irish author and nationalist executed, 1922
Jack Ruby kills Lee Harvey Oswald, 1963
Hijacker parachutes into thunderstorm, 1971
Robin Williams stars in Mrs. Doubtfire, 1993
Origin of Species is published, 1859
Ringo Starr earns a solo #1 hit with "Photograph", 1973
Old West
John Neihardt, ghostwriter of Black Elk Speaks, dies, 1973
Zachary Taylor is born, 1784
Wilt Chamberlain sets NBA rebounds record, 1960
Vietnam War
LBJ to continue Kennedy policy in Vietnam, 1963
U.S. casualty rates hit new high, 1965
U.S. Army announces Calley will be tried, 1969
World War I
Yugoslav National Council expresses concerns about post-war boundaries , 1918
World War II
U.S. B-29s raid Tokyo, 1944

No comments:

Post a Comment