Harry, Söderman (World of Forensic Science)
Harry Söderman was a Swedish criminalist whose career and research is unique in the history of forensic sciences. His name is associated with the greatest contributors to forensic sciences, such as the French criminalist Edmond Locard (1877966), the French anthropologist Alphonse Bertillon (1853914), the Austrian criminalist Hans Gross, and the Swiss criminalist R.A. Reiss.
At age 22, Söderman began a long journey to the Orient. He persuaded a Swedish bicycle manufacturer to lend him a bicycle to ride to Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey). In addition, he obtained extra support from the Swedish police magazine as a correspondent, and while he was visiting different countries, Söderman reported on their police systems and criminal activities. His travel did not stop in Turkey, and he spent many months in Asia, venturing into the interior of China. Söderman returned to Stockholm two years later, in 1924.
The encounter that probably changed his life and made his dreams possible occurred at a small mountain resort in northern Sweden not long after his return from Asia. Because of a bad blizzard that interrupted his hike, Söderman was required to stay for three days and three nights in a hut with three men that he had never met. During their long talks, one of the men revealed that he was an acquaintance of Edmond Locard, in Lyon, France. Söderman immediately said that he considered Locard the greatest living police scientist and expressed his desire to study under him. Some time later, young Söderman received a letter from Lyon stating that he was accepted as an intern in Locard's laboratory.
In 1926, Söderman left Sweden for Lyon, where he spent the next six years. He was able to absorb a great amount of knowledge and experience from Locard, while also obtaining his doctoral degree from the University of Lyon. His dissertation research was on the scientific study of the individual characteristics present on fired bullets that originate from the barrel of the firearm, as well as those left on cartridges from the firing pin. He was the first researcher to tackle the problem of firearms identification from a scientific perspective. Söderman invented the Hastoscope, which is an improved comparison microscope. The Hastoscope holds two bullets that can turn on their axles in order to accelerate the identification process by comparison of their striations. The origin of the word Hastoscope is a mystery, but the theory that it is a contraction of Ha(rry) S(öderman) + toscope has been offered. This theory also states that the word contains the word haste, as this microscope accelerated the observation process.
In 1932, Söderman returned to his native Stockholm and started a private forensic laboratory. His work was successful and he obtained a position at the University of Stockholm, where he taught scientific police techniques. In 1933, he left for two years to study American police systems in the United States under a fellowship, spending one full year in New York City. After being back in Sweden for about two years, he left again in 1937 for Dublin, Ireland. He spent one year reorganizing the Irish police force at the request of the Irish government. In 1939, he was asked by the Swedish government to become the head of the National Forensic Science Institute, the equivalent to the FBI laboratory in United States. Söderman was at the pinnacle of his career and he remained in this position until his retirement. He continued to be extremely active in international relations, and a few years later, he was one of the founders of Interpol.
During World War II (1939941), Söderman was asked by the Norwegian minister to train Norwegian police officers in anticipation of the end of the war. Söderman created training camps in Sweden, and as a result about 17,000 men were trained between 1943 and 1945. In 1953, Söderman resigned from his position as head of the National Forensic Science Institute to devote himself completely to international activities. The same year, he moved to the United States, where he worked as a consultant for police organizations from around the world. He died at the age of 54.
Söderman wrote hundreds of articles and books. He was fluent in several languages, including Swedish, English, French, and German. As a columnist for many journals, he was widely read and known in the forensic science community. His most famous books are Modern Criminal Investigation, which he co-authored with American Police Deputy Chief John J. O'Connell and Policeman's Lot. It is estimated that more than 100,000 copies of Modern Criminal Investigation have been sold.
SEE ALSO Firearms; Criminalistics; Microscope, comparison.