Sydney Smith (forensic expert)

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See also Sidney Smith for a list of individuals by that name.

Professor Sir Sydney Alfred Smith CBE OPR FRSE LLD (4 August 1883 in Roxburgh, New Zealand – 8 May 1969 in Edinburgh, Scotland), was a renowned forensic scientist and pathologist.[1][2][3] From 1928 to 1953, Smith was Regius Professor of Forensic Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, a well-known forensic department of that time.[4] Smith's popular 1959 autobiography, Mostly Murder, has run through many British and American editions, the latest in 1988.[5]

Life[edit]

Smith was born at Roxburgh, Otago, in New Zealand the son of Mary Elizabeth Wilkinson and James Jackson Smith.[6]

He was educated at Roxburgh public school, and Victoria College, Wellington. He later won a Vans Dunlop scholarship to study zotany and Zoology at the University of Edinburgh. He transferred to medicine and graduated with an MB ChB in 1912, with first-class honours, and then undertook a research scholarship, receiving a Diploma in Public Health (DPH) in 1913.

Following a short period in general practice, Smith became an assistant in the Edinburgh department of forensic medicine at the suggestion of Professor Henry Harvey Littlejohn. He obtained his doctorate (MD) in 1914 with a gold medal, and also won the Alison Prize.

Smith returned to New Zealand in 1914 and took up a post as Medical Officer of Health for Otago at Dunedin. During World War I, Smith served as a major in the New Zealand Army Corps. In 1917, Smith took up a post as medico-legal advisor to the Government of Egypt and senior lecturer in forensic medicine at the School of Medicine in Cairo. Smith went on to establish himself as an authority in the field of ballistics and firearms in forensic medicine, publishing the first edition of Textbook of Forensic Medicine in 1925.[7]

In 1928, Smith was appointed to the Regius Chair of forensic medicine at the University of Edinburgh. In 1929 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Sir Edmund Taylor Whittaker, Ralph Allan Sampson, Thomas James Jehu and James Ritchie.[8]

In 1931 he became Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, a post he held until 1953 (succeeded by Professor Thomas J Mackie). During his period as Dean, in response to Polish medical students seeking refuge in Scotland, he founded the Polish Medical School of Edinburgh in 1941. He was awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta (OPR) by the Polish government after the war. The school was disbanded in 1949.[9]

Smith was Rector of the University of Edinburgh from 1954 to 1957. He published an autobiography, Mostly Murder, in 1959.[7]

In King's Birthday Honours 1944 Smith was appointed as a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.[10] In the New Year Honours 1949 Smith was appointed as a Knight Bachelor[11] and invested by King George VI on 4 March 1949.[12] In 1955 the University of Edinburgh gave him an honorary doctorate (LLD) for his literary works.[13]

He died on 8 May 1969 at his house "Rhycullen" in Edinburgh.[14]

Artistic Recognition[edit]

He was portrayed in office as Dean by William Oliphant Hutchison.[15]

Family[edit]

In 1912 he married Catherine Goodsir Gelenick (d.1962).[16]

They were parents to the poet Sydney Goodsir Smith, and their daughter, Catherine Mary Goodsir Smith, became a doctor.[17]

Cases[edit]

Smith's first important forensic case was the 1913 trial of Patrick Higgins for the murder of his two sons in Winchburgh, Scotland, known as the Hopetoun Quarry murders. Because of the build-up of adipocere in the bodies, a result of their being immersed in a cold flooded quarry, Littlejohn and Smith were able to provide important evidence in the trial, leading to the conviction and execution of Higgins.[2] The two scientists' famous work gained notoriety 94 years later, when a relative of the boys asked for the return of specimens taken from their remains from the University of Edinburgh, for a proper burial. Research revealed that after their work on the case, Littlejohn and Smith had removed parts of the bodies from police custody to use as scientific specimens, as described in Smith's autobiography,[5] according to Chris Paton in The Scotsman.[18] In January 2008, the University agreed to return the remains, if the claimant could establish her relationship and the other relatives all agreed.[19][20]

In 1935, Smith was one of the forensic experts involved in the identification of the bodies of the victims of Buck Ruxton, using a novel technique of forensic anthropology to superimpose a photograph over the X-ray of a victim's skull.

Also in 1935 (whilst on holiday) he was called to give evidence in the infamous Shark Arm case.[21]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Sir Sydney Alfred Smith". The New Zealand Edge. Retrieved 9 March 2008.
  2. ^ a b Pitman, Joy (1988). "Out of the College archives: The Sydney A. Smith Collection" (PDF). Proc. R. Coll. Physicians Edinb. 18 (2): 213–218. PMID 11621535. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2006. Retrieved 9 March 2008.
  3. ^ "Sir Sydney Alfred Smith Biography (1883–1969)". Biography. A&E Television Networks. Retrieved 9 March 2008.[dead link]
  4. ^ "Professor Sir Sydney Alfred Smith, 1884 - 1969. Professor of Forensic Medicine at Edinburgh University | National Galleries of Scotland". www.nationalgalleries.org. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  5. ^ a b Smith, Sir Sydney (1959). Mostly Murder. London: Harrap. ISBN 0-88029-306-3.
  6. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  7. ^ a b William J. Tilstone; Kathleen A. Savage; Leigh A. Clark (2006). Forensic science: an encyclopedia of history, methods, and techniques. ABC-CLIO. p. 13. ISBN 1-57607-194-4.
  8. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  9. ^ https://www.ed.ac.uk/medicine-vet-medicine/about/history/polish-school
  10. ^ "No. 36309". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 31 December 1943. p. 20.
  11. ^ "No. 38493". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 31 December 1948. p. 2.
  12. ^ "No. 38553". The London Gazette. 4 March 1949. p. 1.
  13. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  14. ^ http://www.nzedge.com/legends/sydney-smith/
  15. ^ https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/3795/professor-sir-sydney-alfred-smith-1884-1969-professor-forensic-medicine-edinburgh-university
  16. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  17. ^ http://www.nzedge.com/legends/sydney-smith/
  18. ^ Paton, Chris (16 June 2007). "Stolen lives". The Scotsman. Retrieved 11 March 2008.
  19. ^ "Plea for return of stolen remains". BBC News. 9 January 2008. Retrieved 11 March 2008.
  20. ^ Rose, Gareth (9 January 2008). "Plea to university to return bodies of murder victims". The Scotsman. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  21. ^ http://www.nzedge.com/legends/sydney-smith/

References[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Alexander Fleming
Rector of the University of Edinburgh
1954–1957
Succeeded by
James Robertson Justice