Osborn, Albert Sherman (World of Forensic Science)
QUESTIONED DOCUMENT EXAMINER
Albert Sherman Osborn was the first American to achieve prominence in the world of questioned document examination and forged document analysis. He authored Questioned Documents in 1910; it remains in print, and still stands as a seminal text in questioned document analysis. In 1937, near the end of his career (and not long from the end of his life), he published The Mind of the Juror as Judge of the Facts, or, The Laymen's View of the Law, another well-known forensics tome. Osborn was at the forefront of questioned document examination for more than 50 years, and was renowned for his success within the legal system as an expert witness and scholar. By the thoroughness and professionalism of his work, he was able to make significant headway with the court system's acceptance of expert testimony about forged documents as legal evidence in criminal trials. He founded the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners in 1942; this organization has continued to grow and expand in its research, knowledge base, and cadre of subject matter experts to the present day.
Albert Osborn was the first American to utilize the scientific method in the examination of questioned documents. His legendary texts, Questioned Documents, and The Problem of Proof, published in 1910 and 1922, respectively, were met with wide acclaim by public and private criminal justice and law enforcement agencies, the legal professions, and the public. Although the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners was chartered in 1942, Albert Osborn began holding annual informal meetings designed to share ideas and research information among experts in the fields of forged documents and questioned document analysis in 1913.
The premise inherent in questioned document analysis is to examine and compare data appearing on written or electronic evidence. It has grown from handwriting analysis and signature comparisons to include: handwriting; typewriting; hand printing; electronic and other printing methods; alterations; erasures; obliterations; studies of impressions on paper or other printing media; physical features of printing media (watermarks, seals, fiber contents, etc.); studies of the materials used to make the documents such as inks, ribbons, cartridges, and papers; and even shoeprint and vehicle tread impression analysis. Questioned document examiners also study and compare edges, perforations, and tears in documents, stamps, seals, and other pieces of physical evidence.
Albert Osborn was an acknowledged expert in the fields of document forgery (it was his contention that no two individuals could produce exactly the same handwriting characteristics) and questioned document analysis. His forensic methods and scientific conclusions are still studied, and his expertise is still quoted in contemporary courts of law.
SEE ALSO Document forgery; Fibers; Handwriting analysis; Impression evidence; Tire tracks.