Waite, Charles E

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Waite, Charles E.

18651926
AMERICAN
FORENSIC SCIENTIST

Forensic scientist Charles E. Waite was involved in a number of landmark advancements in the science of ballistics over the course of his career. He was the first person to compile a catalog of information on firearms , and was part of the group of scientists who adapted the comparison microscope for use in ballistics comparison. Waite also was a co-founder of the Bureau of Forensic Ballistics.

During the 1910s Waite was working as a special investigator for the New York Attorney General's office. It was at this point that he became involved in a case that would prove pivotal to his career. In 1915, an illiterate farmer in rural New York was accused of a double murder . Investigators hired a firearms expert who claimed that the bullets used in the murders matched the gun found in the farmer's house. Stielow, the farmer, was convicted to the murders and sentenced to death. However, the New York governor requested a reinvestigation of the case, and Waite was assigned to the job. He worked with microscopy expert Max Poser to examine the fatal bullets along with bullets test fired from Stielow's gun, studying the bullets with microscopes . They ultimately determined that Stielow's gun could not have been used in the murders. The man was pardoned and released.

Waite's experience with the Stielow case inspired him to look into developing a scientific system of cataloging ballistics information in order to prevent future mistakes. For a number of years he collected data, visited firearms manufacturers, and traveled around the United States and Europe. Waite, with the help of Calvin Goddard, created a database of information that was the first of its kind in the area of ballistics.

In 1925 Waite and fellow scientists Calvin Goddard, Phillip O. Gravelle, and John H. Fisher opened the Bureau of Forensic Ballistics in New York, New York. Their goal was to offer firearms identification services to agencies across the U.S. About this same time, Waite and the group also adapted the comparison microscope so that it could be used for bullet comparison. This capability made it much easier for examiners to identify matching bullet striations.

see also Ballistic fingerprints.