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THE BIRTH OF BALLISTICS

THE BIRTH OF BALLISTICS

Dr. Calvin Goddard was a pioneer in the field of ballistics research. He developed the science of identifying fired bullets and empty cartridge cases. He proved that no two guns were made exactly alike – that every weapon makes characteristic marks on a bullet and a cartridge shell. His work was helpful in the Massacre investigation.

Dr. Calvin Goddard Portrait
Dr. Calvin Goddard, a pioneer in the field of ballistics research, proved that the Tommy guns confiscated from Fred “Killer” Burke’s house had been used in the Massacre.

In 1925, Dr. Calvin Goddard co-established the first significant institution devoted to firearms examination: the Bureau of Forensic Ballistics in New York. This is where he perfected the comparison microscope for ballistics research.

Goddard developed the science of identifying fired bullets and empty cartridge cases, known as forensic ballistics. Goddard proved that no two revolvers are made exactly alike — that every weapon makes characteristic marks on a bullet and a cartridge shell, and that they are the same every time that gun is fired.

He showed that a bullet taken from a body of a murder victim can be identified as having been fired from a specific gun because of marks the gun has left on test bullets.

Goddard fires bullet into trash can
Dr. Calvin Goddard test-fires a bullet that will be compared with bullets recovered from a crime scene.
Goddard looks through microscope
A comparison microscope was used to determine whether bullets recovered from a crime scene came from a specific weapon. Pictured are Joseph Wilimovsky and Dr. Calvin Goddard.

In 1927, Goddard was brought in to help investigators with the Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti robbery-murder case in Massachusetts. He compared bullets fired from Sacco’s revolver with bullets found at the crime scene. He confirmed that one of the bullets recovered from the scene had been fired from Sacco’s gun. Goddard’s findings were retested in 1961 and 1983, and the results were confirmed each time. Sacco and Vanzetti died in the electric chair on August 23, 1927.

Impressed by Goddard’s work on the Massacre case, Chicago business leaders on the coroner’s jury decided to finance the establishment of a private crime laboratory in Chicago. It was headed by Goddard and located at Northwestern University. It was established as a private crime lab to keep it at arm’s length from the Chicago Police Department, which was rife with corruption at that time.

The crime lab expanded beyond Goddard’s expertise in firearms identification to include lie detection, document examination, toxicological examinations, fingerprint identification and photographic evidence. The lab even experimented with scopolamine — “truth serum.”

The Chicago lab was the inspiration and model for the FBI crime lab established two years later.

Goddard in room with shelves lined with weapons
This room in Goddard’s crime lab was dubbed the “Hall of Death” because of the vast number of weapons. Pictured are Autar S. Kapur, a crime lab student from India, and Joseph Wilimovsky, assistant in firearms detection.

The Legacy

Prohibition was lifted in 1933, draining a lucrative revenue source for the Mob...

The Legacy - The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Feb. 14th, 1929.
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