Brainy Quote of the Day

Friday, February 24, 2017

Detective X...

Wilmer Souder, Physicist, National Bureau of Standards (precursor to NIST)
Topics: Forensics, History, NIST, Physics, Research

An almost quaint alliteration to Malcolm X by one letter and several years before he  would make the Algebraic symbol for unknown famous, this previously unknown history is proof of the usefulness of science in the public sphere for evaluating factual data to precise, legal conclusions, ultimately finding the truth, which has no alternatives.

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32, also prominently displayed at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

In the gangster era of Prohibition and the Great Depression, a physicist at the National Bureau of Standards, now NIST, brought modern ideas to the then-emerging field of forensic science.

It was called the Trial of the Century, and it ended on February 13, 1935. On that winter night, the Hunterdon County Courthouse in Flemington, New Jersey, was surrounded by thousands of people awaiting the verdict. When it came, camera operators on the newsreel trucks launched flares that lit up the night sky and illuminated for their cameras the jeering crowd below. The defendant, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, was found guilty of kidnapping and killing the 20-month-old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh. Hauptmann would die in the electric chair the following year.

The ransom notes helped seal Hauptmann’s fate. Eight experts testified that the handwriting on the notes matched Hauptmann’s. In the media frenzy that was the Lindbergh trial, one of those experts made a point of avoiding the spotlight, something he did throughout his long career. Years later, when he was nearing retirement, a profile in Reader’s Digest would refer to him as Detective X.

His name was Wilmer Souder. A physicist at the National Bureau of Standards, now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Souder played an important role in the early days of forensic science. He helped send countless murderers, bootleggers, gangsters and thieves to prison, and he kept such a low profile partly out of concern for his and his family’s safety. Perhaps as a result, he was not long remembered for his forensic work, and his influence on the developing field of forensic science was not as great as it might have been.

A scientist and a historian at NIST team up to discover the mostly forgotten history of Wilmer Souder, a scientist who worked at the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) from 1911 to 1954. Souder was an early expert in the field of forensic science. His careful analysis of evidence and his expert testimony sent to prison countless murderers, bootleggers, gangsters, and thieves. The most famous case he worked on was the Lindbergh kidnapping case, and this video reveals that his involvement in that case was much greater than previously known.

NIST: Who was Detective X? Rich Press

No comments:

Post a Comment