CSI: GW, The Early Years
I read your article, CSI: GW, with considerable interest. In 1968, Dean Arthur Burns of the Graduate School appointed me chairman of a faculty committee to investigate the feasibility of creating a graduate level department of forensic sciences. This was a response to the request received from the Department of Justice on behalf of the FBI. At that time, I was a member of the Department of Chemistry.
Forensic sciences had just become an emerging discipline as a consequence of the rapid advance in the development of instruments capable of analysis of material at the molecular level. The use of these instruments in the analysis of trace quantities of criminal evidence substantially increased the potential for conviction of indicted persons.
The interest of the FBI became very important because its agents, in large part, had little formal training in these new technologies. When serving as expert witnesses in a criminal trial, they must convince the judge that their training and experience met the standards for acceptance as an expert. The creation of a graduate degree in the forensic sciences would provide the void that existed.
Professor Al Desmond, then chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences, and I, with special dispensation from J. Edgar Hoover, attended the FBI Academy to evaluate the academic content of the various courses taken by the potential FBI agents. After almost two years of effort, faculty approval was achieved for the creation of a graduate level Department of Forensic Sciences.
In 1970, I was appointed as the first chairman (on loan from the Chemistry Department) and served until 1973. The first class consisted of 42 FBI agents. We began without any office space or lab facilities and no full-time instructors. Each of us taught a specialized course in our field developed from our exposure to the courses at the FBI Academy.
One of my students, Michael Hoffman, who did his MS thesis in chemistry with me, became director of the forensic sciences laboratory at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Charles Midkiff, another former master of science thesis student, became the chief of the Instrumental Analysis Section at ATAF. While serving as chairman of the Department of Chemistry (1980-88), I initiated a minor field of study in forensic sciences in our department. In fact, one of my former students received her doctorate in forensic chemistry and is now employed at the Research Division of the FBI.
There is more to tell about the formative years but I thought you might be interested in what your article excludes.
Theodore P. Perros
Professor Emeritus in Chemistry and Forensic Sciences
I dont recall reading the original story, but the spring 2004 GW Magazine has two letters about women in the 60s being permitted to wear only skirts or dresses to class.
It was far more stringent than that, as I recall. We were not permitted to wear pants/shorts on campus at all, unless you were getting directly into a car. However, more than once did I throw a raincoat over my pajamas to run across 21st from Strong Hall to Quigleys for an English muffin and coffee.
Suzanne R Glaser, BA 65
N. Bethesda, Md.