One hundred years ago, this past July, while the flames of the First World War were sweeping across Europe, the first forensic lab in North America was founded in Montreal, Quebec. It was called the “Laboratoire de Recherches Medico-Legales” [Laboratory of Legal Medicine and Technical Police] and had its humble beginnings at 179 Craig Street East (across from the courthouse) in a rental space that cost $75 per month. The initial outlay to equip the lab was a grand total of $2,500. Its founder and first director was Dr. Wilfred Derome.
Wilfred Derome (April 19th 1877 – November 24th 1931)
G.W. Derome was born in the small village of Napierville, Quebec, southeast of Montreal. He studied at the College of Montreal and obtained his Bachelor of Arts in 1898. He received his doctorate of medicine from the University of Laval, Montreal in 1902 and interned at Notre Dame Hospital.
He studied Legal Medicine at the University of Paris between 1908 and 1909. He was appointed Professor of Legal Medicine and Toxicology and head of the Laboratory of Notre Dame in 1910.
He was the director of the Laboratoire de Recherches Medico-Legales from its founding in 1914 until his early death at the age of 54 in 1931. He published the first Canadian treatise on forensic medicine, “Precise de Medicine Legale” in 1920 and in 1922 was the first expert in North America to testify on the determination of alcohol in blood in front of a criminal court.
Under his leadership, the forensic lab gained international recognition such that J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, visited twice before establishing the FBI lab in 1932.
Derome Award, Prix du Merite
This award was created by the Canadian Society of Forensic Science in 1991, in recognition of Dr. Wilfred Derome, as its most prestigious award that it can bestow. The award is not presented on an annual basis but has been awarded as follows:
1992 – James Alexander Churchman (posthumously)
1993 – James (Robbie) Robinson (posthumously)
1994 – Blake B. Coldwell (posthumously)
1995 – L Joslyn Rogers (posthumously)
1996 – Douglas M. Lucas
2001 – Gail Anderson
2005 – James G. Wigmore
2010 – Francois Julien
Lucas, D.M., “North of 49- The Development of Forensic Science in Canada, Science and Justice, 37(1): 47-54, 1997
Lucas, D.M., and Charlebois, R.C., “Blood, Breath and Urine- Alcohol Analysis in Canada”, CSFS Journal, 11: 75-82, 1978
Derome, W., “The Laboratory of Legal Medicine and Technical Police of Montreal”, American Journal of Police Science, 1(2): 216-223, 1930
There are lots of great events scheduled over the next couple of months for the forensic community. Here is a summary of what’s coming!
Monday October 6th 2014. Dr. Frederick Jaffe Memorial Lectureship in Forensic Medicine, 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the George Ignatieff Theatre, Trinity College, 15 Devonshire Place, University of Toronto. This is a free and public lecture on “Highlights in the Odyssey of Forensic Science: The First Ten Thousand Years” by Doug Lucas. Doug is the retired director of the Centre of Forensic Sciences who I know will provide a very informative, thought-provoking and entertaining lecture. Register here: http://rgn.bz/2CnR
Saturday October 11th, 2014. The California DUI Lawyers Association present a seminar on “Blood is Thicker than Breath” at the Orange County Airport Hilton Hotel organized by Josh Dale. I am presenting a lecture on “Forensic Breath Alcohol Testing. A View from the Great White North”. Register here: http://rgn.bz/mf1B
Monday October 20th 2014. I will be presenting a 3 day workshop on “Aspects of Forensic Alcohol Toxicology: Not Just Drinking and Driving” at the Southwestern Association of Forensic Scientists Annual Conference on South Padre Island, Texas. The workshop is organized by Alex Madrigal II. Register here: http://rgn.bz/MFFC