The questions that plague most scientist are: why, how, where did this come from? Answering those fundamental questions is how mysteries of the world are discovered and solved. Forensic Anthropology takes these questions a little further as these types of questions are answered in a legal domain. According to the American Board of Forensic Anthropology: Forensic anthropology is the application of the science of physical or biological anthropology to the legal process. Physical or biological anthropologists who specialize in forensics primarily focus their studies on the human skeleton. Much of the work of forensic anthropologists are used in both legal and humanitarian contexts. Some forensic anthropologists, like Dr. Franklin Demann, work in parts of the world that have been torn by war to recover remains. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Frankin Demann nomination by the National Museum of Health and Medicine
It was an overcast day in 2004 in the tiny village of Saravan, Laos. Forensic anthropologist Franklin Damann, on a dig for the U.S. Military to recover remains of missing servicemen killed in the Vietnam War, spies what appears to be a bone fragment resting on the soil surface. But he cannot be sure. He puts the fragments in a plastic bag labeled “Possible Osseous Remains.”
He hopes the fragment, and several more found over the next few days in the village by him and his recovery team yield evidence to help identify two U.S. crew members of a B-57 aircraft which exploded and crashed on a remote hill in this southern Laotian village in 1969, the height of the Vietnam War.
More than 1,800 servicemen are still missing. Since 1992, ten times a year, the military has sent teams to the old battlegrounds of Southeast Asia to search for the remains of U.S. service members. Two to six teams go on each trip. So far, they have accounted for more than 724 Americans, according to the Pentagon.
Franklin, now the anatomical curator for Anatomical Collections at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C., served as a forensic anthropologist for the Department of Defense Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command Central Identification Laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. There, he led recovery missions throughout Southeast Asia and northeastern China in search of missing service members from previous conflicts. Here, he has co-curated an exhibit about the nation’s history and current efforts to identify its fallen service members.
Read more about him here.
Where have you learned about forensic science in your daily life?
The ‘Nifty Fifty’ are a group of noted professionals who will fan out across the Washington, DC area next October to speak about their work and careers at various middle and high schools. Are you a Festival Partner Organization? Then nominate a ‘Nifty Fifty’ speaker! Find out more about how to nominate a speaker here.