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Official Journal of Northwestern Center for Public Safety

The Key

Calvin Goddard & the Northwestern Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory

Northwestern University Center for Public Safety founder Franklin Kremmel (1907 - 1998) was a nationally recognized transportation and traffic safety authority. Kremmel, though, is not the only Northwestern figure to make an indelible impression on modern law enforcement. In 1929, Calvin H. Goddard (1891 - 1955), the "father of forensic ballistics," developed the nation's first "Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory" at Northwestern's School of Law. He is credited with perfecting the comparison microscope for bullet and cartridge case examinations.

A medical doctor and military veteran, Goddard had already earned a national reputation for his research into forensic ballistics when Cook County coroner Herman Bundesen convinced him relocate to Chicago. (Northwestern, CJLI) As the founder of the Bureau of Forensic Ballistics in New York City, Goddard made national headlines when he testified during the 1927 Massachusetts appeals trial of anarchists and convicted murderers Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. His scientific testimony — that one fatal bullet matched the rifling marks from Sacco’s .32 Colt and that scratches from the gun’s firing pin on test-fired shell casings from Sacco’s gun all matched spent shell casings from the crime scene — was of such high quality that it held up in much later examinations, one as late as 1983. (Goddard, 1927; Grant)

Following Chicago’s infamous 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Bundesen was determined to bring Goddard to Chicago to “revamp the city’s image” through lab work independent of the police. (Northwestern) “With support from the law school dean, John Henry Wigmore, the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory, the country’s first independent criminological lab, was born.” (Northwestern) Goddard’s research at this lab confirmed that Al Capone’s gang was involved in the slaughter.

The first institution of its kind in the United States, it is patterned partly after the scientific police labratories [sic] maintained in all the larger cities of Europe, and partly after the best foreign medico-legal institutes, its services being available to law enforcing agencies and reputable individuals throughout the United States and Canada.... [It] stands ready to examine and report upon any bit of physical evidence which may figure in a crime, its investigations including studies of blood, bombs, bones, bullets, code messages, counterfeits, dust, finger and foot-prints [sic], fingernail scrapings, firearms, food, hair, handwriting, inks, poisons, stains, tireprints, textiles, typewriting, and scores of other subjects.””

Calvin Goddard, 1932

When the FBI established its own forensic lab in 1932, it used Goddard’s lab at Northwestern as its model. (Yount) Under Goddard, the lab published the American Journal of Police Science, which later merged with the School of Law’s Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, a publication that continues through today. Goddard served as the lab’s director and as a Northwestern political science professor until 1934. His replacement director was none other than Leonarde Keeler, the key inventor of the polygraph test. (Ball & Gillespie)

By the end of the 1930s, most large cities had incorporated a ballistic lab into their police agencies. In 1938, the City of Chicago bought the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory from Northwestern and integrated it into the Chicago Police Department. (Yount)

Goddard completed his text History of Firearms Identification in 1936. In 1941, he reenlisted in the Army. Too old for combat, he was named the Ordnance Department’s chief historian, then the assistant chief for the historical branch of the Far East Command in Tokyo. In 1948, he established and commanded the US Army Far East Criminal Investigation Laboratory, also in Tokyo, and was promoted to Colonel.(Yount) Throughout his career, he continued researching and teaching ballistics testing. (CJLI)

Goddard’s legacy from the Northwestern Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory is reflected in NUCPS’ offerings. The range of available forensic science and crime scene investigation courses would have met with Goddard’s enthusiastic approval. §

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