The two men were Charles Norris Chief Medical of the City of New York from 1918 and Alexander Gettler who invented the field of scientific forensics. Today forensic pathology and chemistry is so deeply embedded in the culture of the general field of forensics that it is hard to imagine a time when that wasn’t so.
Charles Norris lead the way as the head of the Office of the Medical Examiner. He wanted his Office to be outstanding in what it did and hired Alexander GEttler, a toxicologist. Over and over again, once these two teamed up, they proved that careful, scientific examination of bodies and materials of various sorts were a far more accurate way of finding what had caused deaths and other outcomes than any other way of doing so.
Their efforts did not always endear them to the NYPD or firms whose goods they proved were deadly. But with their patient and exact approach, they proved over and over again that causation of outcomes didn’t need to be guessed at but could be established with scientific accuracy. For instance they proved that a man who was on trial for killing his girlfriend was not her killer. He had been apprehended carrying parts of her dismembered body which was damning enough evidence to put him on trial. But Norris and Gettler proved that she had died of carbon monoxide poisoning and while her boyfriend should not have dimembered her, he ahd not killed her.
In another case They also proved, that people working on the production of tetraethyllead suffered lethal affects though it took many years for Standard Oil and authorities to accept their findings. Their work in this case also pointed ahead to the field of environmental science that would become very important in future years, because it resulted ultimately in the banning of lead in gasoline.
While circumstances favored the development of more scientiifc and exact methods of crime investigation, the role of Norris and Gettler in the fields of forensic pathology and chemistry owed everything to their spiritof enquiry and their dedication to finding the truth. They are both New York city heroes.