18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics.

Author:Kapp, Marshall

In both civil and criminal cases, questions concerning the timing, location, cause, and manner of some person's death often arise and implicate significant legal consequences. Addressing this area of evidence is the purview of forensic (from the Latin forensis, "in open court" or "public") science. More particularly, forensic medicine is the application of medical techniques, methods, and knowledge to help resolve legal issues. In the United States, the professional subset of forensic medicine concentrating on medicolegal death investigation and necessarily entailing the collaboration of physicians (particularly pathologists who conduct autopsies), attorneys, and law enforcement personnel, owes if not its origins at least its early practical development and academic and political acceptance to Ms. Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962), the subject of Bruce Goldfarb's interesting and engaging new biography.

Typical of women of her era, Lee had barely the equivalent of a high-school education, but her father, as co-founder and major initial shareholder of International Harvester, provided her with the substantial financial means to pursue her obsession--the professionalization and advancement of a national and state-by-state death investigation enterprise that would better equip the police and the courts to exonerate the innocent and punish the guilty. The main object of her largess in this endeavor was Harvard Medical School (HMS), with which Lee had a strong affinity through family members and friends. The string to which her monetary donations were attached was her active engagement, frequently bordering on micromanagement, in the programmatic products her donations produced.

This book specifically chronicles the role of Lee and her generosity in, among other things, the creation of a Department of Legal Medicine and a forensic pathology fellowship at HMS, having...

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