Kirk, Paul Leland
Kirk, Paul Leland
Paul Leland Kirk is a leader in establishing criminology as an academic discipline. He worked as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), for forty-three years, making advances to the university's program and conducting important research in the field. Kirk also wrote the groundbreaking textbook Crime Investigation. In addition, he consulted on many criminal cases, including the well-known murder trial of Sam Sheppard.
Early on, Kirk became known for his work as a microchemist. He found microchemistry had practical applications in two areas—tissue culture studies and criminalistics . Through his work at UCB, Kirk began to develop a more structured and scientific approach to the study of criminalistics. As a result, in 1937, he was selected to head the criminology program at the university. Eight years later, he established a major in technical criminology. Then, in 1950, he worked with Berkeley police chief August Vollmer to formally establish the school of criminology at UCB. He later advised other institutions about establishing their own programs. Kirk also worked with C. R. Kingston analyzing the statistical aspect of fingerprint identification .
In addition to his work in academia, Kirk was actively involved in providing professional consultation on criminal cases. Among other areas of expertise, he became known for his skill in blood spatter analysis. This knowledge came into play as Kirk became involved in the famous case in 1954 of Dr. Sam Sheppard, an Ohio osteopathic surgeon accused of murdering his wife. Sheppard was tried and convicted of the crime. Afterward, Kirk was summoned to investigate the crime scene, and through detailed analysis of the blood spatters, concluded that Sheppard could not have committed the crime. During Sheppard's retrial, Kirk's testimony became key to the defense. In the end, Sheppard was acquitted of the crime. His story was used as the basis for the popular television series and motion picture The Fugitive.
Kirk is also known for his contributions to literature on criminology. In 1953, he published Crime Investigation, one of the first crime scene investigation books to include both practical information and theory. Here Kirk presents techniques for examining physical evidence at crime scenes, including chapters on fingerprints, fibers , hair, blood, tracks and trails, firearms , and vehicular accidents. Because of its popularity, the book has since been reprinted many times.
see also Crime scene reconstruction; Television shows.