Rudolph Archibald Reiss – the First True Forensic Scientist
Rudolph Archibald Reiss (Hausach, Baden, July 8, 1875 – Belgrade, August 8, 1929) was a Swiss forensic scientist, publicist, doctor of chemistry and professor at the University of Lausanne.
Reiss was the father of crime science, a science that deals with the analysis and interpretation of evidence found at the scene of the crime. With his research from the beginning of the 20th century, he made significant advances in forensic science, and also contributed to the development of a forensic institute at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, which today is considered one of the best forensic institutions in the world.
Life and education
He was born on July 8, 1875, near the city of Hausach in Germany. He attended elementary and secondary school in Germany, and then moved with his family to Switzerland. There he enrolled chemistry at the University of Lausanne, and in 1898 he received his Ph.D.
As a child, he was very interested in photography, and during his studies, he was a member of various photographic associations and took part in competitions in this field. He was one of the founders of the Swiss Photography Magazine. The interest in photography was crucial for the development of his forensic career, and in 1899 he was elected director of photography laboratory at the University of Lausanne.
He became professor of forensic science in 1906, and in 1909 he participated in the founding of the Institute of Forensic Science at Lausanne University. It was the first higher education forensic institution and provided the highest quality lectures in the field of forensic science. Today it is known as School of Criminological Sciences and is one of the leading forensic schools in the world.
Reiss’s first major work of art is the book Forensic Photography published in Paris in 1903. Then in 1911, he published the first volume of the Forensic Science Manual, called “Thieves and Killers”, which describes techniques that the police use when investigating, collecting and analyzing evidence related to robberies and murders. The First World War prevented him from completing another three planned tunes of this masterpiece.
Representatives from many countries called on Reiss to hold lectures at their scientific meetings and to help them develop and advance forensic science. And Reiss was always happy to respond. In Brazil, in 1913, he spent three months instructing the forensic police there, and in 1914 he was invited by the Serbian government to conduct an investigation into the war crimes of the Austro-Hungarian army against the Serb population.
Reiss discovered that the Serbian civilian population was the victim of massive, organized and systematic crimes, and wrote in several world languages, trying to spread the truth about genocide, i.e. war crimes committed in Serbia. Forensic methods came to the conclusion that the Austro-Hungarian army used dumdum bullets (for example, the dumdum bullet was a grain of devastating action as it spreads in the object in which it struck) that were banned in the First World War by the Hague Convention. In addition, Rice noted that in addition to mass hanging, there were also another 20 different ways of torturing and killing civilians.
Many of his detailed reports of these horrors, which he made over 100,000 photos, were published in the Swiss newspaper “Gazette”. As a famous professor and criminologist, he tried to spread the truth and to change the barbaric image that the Germans and Austro-Hungarians created about the Serbs. Although he came from neutral Switzerland, Reiss always said that there was no neutrality when it comes to crimes and promised to continue spreading the truth.
Together with the Serbian army and civilians, Rice retreated over Albania in 1915, then took part in the liberation of the Thessaloniki Front, and in 1918, as a member of the Moravian Division, finally dashed into the liberated Belgrade. He was also a member of the Serbian delegation during the peace negotiations in Versailles.
He died on August 8, 1929, in Belgrade, and was buried in a cemetery at Topciderski park According to his wishes, his heart is stored in an urn, taken to Kajmakcalan and buried with other liberators of the Thessaloniki front.