Wilmer Souder was a farm boy from southern Indiana who earned a PhD in physics in 1916 and went to work in the materials lab at the the National Bureau of Standards (later renamed the National Institute of Standards and Technology). His specialty was precise measurements. By day, this mild-mannered scientist made a name for himself for his studies of dental fillings. But he was also an anonymous crimefighter known by the mysterious named Detective X. Recently-uncovered notebooks revealed his alter-ego and the many cases he worked on.
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Indeed, it seems that sometime early in Souder’s career, someone called on the bureau to come up with a systematic way to do handwriting and typewriter analysis, probably to detect fraud. Souder, whose specialty was taking exacting measurements and making precise comparisons, was a perfect fit.
The notebooks show that over the years, Souder worked on all kinds of cases brought to the bureau by the Post Office, the Department of the Treasury, and various other government bodies. In addition to appearing in court as an expert witness, he helped pioneer some of the techniques used in modern forensics in America.
He used a recently invented microscope for comparing bullets to see if they might have come from the same gun. He advised the founder of the FBI’s forensic lab. For the Lindbergh case, he analyzed the handwriting on the ransom notes and compared them to suspects’ writing, finding a match with Bruno Hauptmann, who was eventually convicted and executed.
Souder sounds like the inspiration for a comic book series! Read about Souder’s secret work at National Geographic. -via Digg
(Image credit: NBS, NIST)