Patented: History of Inventions

FORENSICS: the beginning

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Episode notes

Death by tiger bites. Death by prodding. Death from sexual excess. Deaths from over-eating and over-drinking. The opening of graves.

These are a few of the chapter headings in a 13th century Chinese book called ‘The Washing Away of Wrongs’. It is a compendium of grizzly, gory, bizarre murders and deaths.

Its author was Song Ci, a Confucian trained bureaucrat who, like his fellow officials all over China, was responsible for investigating murders in his jurisdiction. According to the Wikipedia page for ‘forensic science’ this book is the earliest written evidence of forensic thinking. Is that correct?

Our guest today is Daniel Asen, a historian of China at Rutgers University.

This is the first episode in a mini-series we’re bringing you all about the invention of Forensics. Next week it’s Fingerprints.

Produced by Freddy Chick

Edited by Pete Dennis and Anisha Deva

Actors were Lucy Davidson and Tristan Hughes

Executive Producer is Charlotte Long

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