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Library Hosts Program on Sherlock Holmes' Contribution to Forensics

Audrey Blumberg

Sunday, July 13, 2014 • 2:00pm

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The goal is to build off the idea of elements in literature, and so as part of the adult summer reading program at the Bridgewater Township Library, Dr. Vincent Cirillo spoke to guests about the impact Sherlock Holmes had on police and forensic science work.

"I have read Sherlock Holmes, and Benedict Cumberbatch has placed a renewed interest on the character," said Nanette Peterson, community outreach librarian, referring to the recent BBC relaunch of the show.

Cirillo read a paper he wrote for the "Sherlock Holmes Journal," called "Sherlock Holmes and the Beginnings of Forensic Science" at a presentation Friday. The paper discusses the ways in which Sherlock Holmes solved crimes in Arthur Conan Doyle's books, and how that changed the face of police forensic work.

Cirillo discussed footprints, fingerprints, handwriting analysis, poison knowledge, trace evidence and ballistic evidence, all of which was used to solve crimes in Doyle's novels - and was later used by police to more accurately analyze crime scenes.

"It was recommended that forensic students read Holmes for information on best practices," he said. "Modern forensic science owes much to the extraordinary vision of Sherlock Holmes."

Cirillo said he came across Doyle's work when he was in high school, and he devoured all the short stories and novels of Holmes. Later in life, when he wrote a book on the Spanish-American War, he did a chapter on the Boer War and Doyle's role in it as a physician.

"It rekindled my interest," he said.

Cirillo said he has always loved to talk about Holmes, and has given several lectures on the topic. He said he always focuses on the science part of the novels.

"I think it's beautiful literature, and the mysteries are exciting," he said. "It is fun to see how Holmes deduces (the answers)."

"Some have said the stories are so important for police to read," he added. "They show the importance of science to a crime scene."

In addition to the presentation, Peterson said a man named Peter Jacoby sat in the lobby with his own Sherlock Holmes memorabilia for anyone interested in seeing the books.

"We found someone local to come," she said. "He is there for walk-by traffic."

There will be a second presentation July 25 at 10:30 a.m. with Robert Moss, a professor at Rutgers University, who will disucss postage stamps that were issued by various countries in honor of Doyle and Holmes.

This is all part of several programs being held over the summer through the adult reading program, and which will also include a July 18 program called Combat Paper. Combat Paper is a program with the Printmaking Center of New Jersey, and it is about paper being made out of military uniforms.

As for the reading program itself, similar to the children's program, adult participants can keep track of the books they read over the summer, and it is being held among all the different branches of the library throughout Somerset County. The adults can win gift cards for different milestones throughout the program.

"Speakers come in for all different subjects geared for adults," Peterson said of the extras involved in the program.

For more information on the summer reading program or about the different speakers and presentations, visit http://www.sclsnj.org. The adult reading program lasts through Aug. 22.

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