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Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

Once upon a time, coroners didn’t need to have any medical knowledge, and there was no institutionalized partnership between law enforcement and the medical community. Wealthy philanthropist and Sherlock Holmes fanatic Frances Glessner Lee gave $250,000 to the Harvard Medical School to create the first department of legal medicine in the US.

Lee also created obsessively detailed, hand-crafted dioramas for use in the forensic pathology program. She based the dioramas on actual crime scenes that she reconstructed, to scale, from police photographs. Despite the hi-tech tools available to investigators today, Lee’s models are still used educationally, and are housed in the Maryland Medical Examiner’s Office.