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Sir Bernard Spilsbury: A Survey and Catalogue of His Autopsy Case Cards From the Wellcome Library, London

Walmsley, Megan L. BSc; Almond, Matthew John DPhil

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: September 2013 - Volume 34 - Issue 3 - p 185–194
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e318288757f
Case Reports

During his lifetime, Sir Bernard Spilsbury was referred to as the “father of forensic medicine.” He became a household name as a result of several famous cases. Several articles have been written about his life and work, but an objective assessment has proved difficult because of the lack of available material that Spilsbury himself produced. His main legacy has been a series of case cards, but for many years these were unavailable to the researcher. In 2008, a collection of some 4000 of Spilsbury’s case cards was bought by The Wellcome Library in London and therefore entered the public domain. In this article, we report our study of 650 of these cards. We discuss trends in Spilsbury’s work and several specific cases in more detail. These cards allow an objective view to be taken of Spilsbury’s everyday work, and we feel that some reappraisal of his legacy is now timely.

From the Department of Chemistry, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, United Kingdom.

Manuscript received September 26, 2012; accepted December 5, 2012.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Matthew John Almond, DPhil, Department of Chemistry, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AD, United Kingdom. E-mail:

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.