Calvin Hooker Goddard – Father of Forensic Ballistics

Born: 30 October 1891, Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Died: 22 February 1955, Washington, D.C., United States

John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Calvin Goddard

Calvin Hooker Goddard was a forensic scientist, army officer, scholar, researcher, and pioneer in forensic ballistics who lived from October 30, 1891, until February 22, 1955. He analyzed the bullet casings from the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and determined that the firearms used were not police-issued weapons, leading authorities to believe the attack was carried out by a mob.

Major Calvin H. Goddard was responsible for several significant developments in the field of ballistics during his career. He constructed one of the most comprehensive ballistics databases of its day with the help of others and adapted the comparison microscope for bullet comparison. Goddard also assisted in the establishment of the United States’ first independent forensic crime laboratory. Police frequently sought his assistance in investigations, including the high-profile cases of Sacco and Vanzetti and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, due to his extensive expertise.

Because of his role in the development of two important improvements in the area, Goddard has gained a reputation as a forensic science pioneer. He was particularly interested in ballistics research and study, and he began to explore and collect data from all known gun makers with the help of Charles Waite. They put the data into a database, which was one of the most complete ballistics databases available at the time. At the same time, Goddard and his colleagues Waite, Phillip O. Gravelle, and John H. Fisher modified the comparison microscope to allow bullet comparison. Examiners found it considerably easier to match bullet striations with this capability.

Biography

He was born in the city of Baltimore in the state of Maryland. Goddard got a Bachelor of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1911 after graduating from the Boys’ Latin School of Maryland in 1907. He then went on to earn a medical degree and graduated in 1915.

He joined the US Army and became a Colonel. He was also the Military Editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and a professor of police science at Northwestern University. He was also the editor of America’s first scientific police publication, the American Journal of Police Science. Colonel Goddard led the US Army Crime Laboratory in Japan after World war second for several years.

At a time when charlatanism was rampant in this field, Calvin Goddard brought professionalism, the scientific method, and reliability to Forensic Firearm Identification. His testimony in the Frye case and others in 1923 paved the way for the acceptance of Firearms Identification by the courts. Goddard may have been the only army officer who served in four branches: Ordnance Corps, Military Police Corps, Medical Corps, and Military Historian, according to his grandson.

On February 22, 1955, he died.

Forensic ballistics

Goddard detailed the use of the comparison microscope in weapons investigations in an article for the Army Ordnance in 1925 titled “Forensic Ballistics.” He is credited with coining the phrase “forensic ballistics,” albeit he later recognized that it was an inadequate title for the field. With C. E. Waite, Philip O. Gravelle, and John H. Fisher, Major Goddard founded the Bureau of Forensic Ballistics in New York City in April 1925. The Bureau was established to provide guns identification services across the United States. Goddard became the worldwide famous pioneer in forensic ballistics after conducting significant research, writing, and speaking on the subject of forensic ballistics and guns identification.

The Bureau of Forensic Ballistics, which Goddard led, was the United States’ first independent criminalistics laboratory, bringing together ballistics, fingerprinting, blood analysis, and trace evidence under one roof. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover avidly encouraged his special agents in charge to join the American Journal of Police Science, which was managed by Colonel Goddard, and he contributed papers to the journal on fingerprint concerns and Bureau responsibilities. The Bureau submitted three articles to the journal’s “Organized Protection Against Organized Crime” series the following year. Hoover also dispatched several people to a Goddard-sponsored workshop on scientific crime detection. He also served as a consultant to the FBI when they established a similar forensic laboratory.

Comparison microscope

With the help and instruction of Major Calvin H. Goddard, Philip O. Gravelle created the comparison microscope for identifying fired bullets and cartridge cases. It was a huge step forward in the field of forensic firearms identification. The unique striae left on the bullet or cartridge case are compared to the worn, machined metal of the barrel, breach block, extractor, or firing pin in the rifle to identify the firearm from which the bullet or cartridge case was discharged. Gravelle was the one who doubted his memory.

“Scientific precision could not be achieved as long as he could only inspect one bullet at a time with his microscope and had to remember the image of it until he placed the comparison bullet under the microscope. Goddard made the comparison microscope operate after he designed it.” Sir Sydney Smith agreed with the concept, highlighting the value of stereomicroscopes in forensic research and firearms identification. He brought the comparison microscope to Scotland and showed it to European scientists for guns identification and other forensic applications.

As Goddard gained a reputation as one of the country’s finest ballistics experts, he was sought out by police departments around the country to aid with investigations. In 1927, Goddard was summoned to assist investigators in the Sacco and Vanzetti robbery/murder case in Massachusetts. Goddard established that Sacco’s pistol was used in the robbery by analyzing bullets from Sacco’s revolver and those found at the crime scene with a comparison microscope.

Nicola Sacco and Bartolommeo Vanzetti were two Italian-born American anarchists arrested on the afternoon of April 15, 1920, in South Braintree, Massachusetts, for the murder of security officer Alessandro Berardelli and the robbery of US$15,766.51 from the factory’s payroll. During the trial, there was a worldwide outcry, with many people believing that the case was founded on railroaded justice and racial discrimination. Sacco and Vanzetti were convicted to death in the electric chair on April 8, 1927, after their appeals were exhausted. After a worldwide outcry, Governor Alvin T. Fuller decided to postpone the executions and form a commission to review the case.

By this time, firearms examination had advanced significantly, and it was now recognized that if both the bullet and the casing were found from the scene, an automatic handgun could be traced using a variety of ways. Unique rifling patterns on the bullet, firing pin indentations on the fired primer, and unique ejector and extractor marks on the casing could now be used to identify automatic pistols. Major Calvin Goddard was hired by the committee assigned to investigate the case in 1927.

Major Goddard examined Saccos.32 Savage Model 1907, the bullet that allegedly killed Berardelli, and the expended casings purportedly found from the crime scene using Philip Gravelle’s newly designed comparative microscope and heliometer, a hollow, lighted magnifier probe used to view gun barrels. (The bullet and cartridge case linked to Sacco’s pistol were allegedly replaced for legitimate evidence by Massachusetts cops, according to Sacco and Vanzetti’s lawyers.) He shot five test bullets from Sacco’s gun into a wad of cotton in front of one of the defense specialists, preparing them for comparative analysis. He then compared the ejected shell casings to those found at the South Braintree murder site using a comparison microscope.

Then he thoroughly examined them. Bullet third matched the rifling marks on Sacco’s handgun barrel while firing pin marks on a.32 wasted casing recovered from the crime scene matched a test shell casing known to have been shot from Sacco’s pistol. The two cartridges were shot from the same rifle, according to the defense expert. The initial defense expert’s second opinion was also in agreement. The convictions were sustained by the committee. On August 23, 1927, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were found guilty and executed in Massachusetts.

Thirty years later, his results were confirmed in a reexamination. Goddard was also a part of the inquiry of the Chicago Massacre on St. Valentine’s Day in 1929. The case was the murder of seven criminals by persons wearing Chicago police uniforms. It was unclear whether the killers were police officers or members of a rival group dressed as police. As an independent investigator, Goddard inspected the Chicago police machine guns and concluded that they were not used in the murders. Two machine guns were discovered later that year after a raid on the residence of one of Al Capone’s hitmen. Goddard put these weapons to the test and found that they had been used in the murders.

No two firearms, even those of the same make and model, create the same markings, just as humans and fingerprints do. Because each handgun leaves its own unique impression on a spent casing or bullet, ballistic fingerprinting and firearm identification take advantage of this fact. Using similar firearms and comparison microscopes, forensic ballistic experts can determine what rifle their evidence collected at the scene corresponds to by measuring the degree of rifling in a barrel, pin impression, ejector marks, and other factors. Ballistics experts now have access to statewide databases because to advances in technology. These databases store ballistics information, which is accessed by law enforcement authorities around the country.

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