18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics

18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics

The story of the Gilded Age Chicago heiress who revolutionized forensic death investigation. As the mother of forensic science, Frances Glessner Lee is the reason why homicide detectives are a thing. She is responsible for the popularity of forensic science in television shows and pop culture. Long overlooked in the history books, this extremely detailed and thoroughly...

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Title:18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics
Author:Bruce Goldfarb
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Edition Language:English

18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics Reviews

  • Kelly Long

    Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.

    This book is a great history of the "medico-legal" subject. A lot of research went into this. It's a fascinating look at not only Frances Glessner Lee but also George Magrath and others who helped Lee shape what is now known as forensic science. I think this subject is definitely underrated in the true crime genre so I highly recommend this book.

  • Susan F

    Frances Glessner Lee appeared to be a "rich woman who didn't have enough to do." What she really was created a widespread industry reaching from "Legal Medicine" , i.e. forensics to homicide investigations, on to the multi million dollar entertainment world of true crime stories, fiction books, movies etc. This wealthy woman held a fascination for unexplained deaths and her journey totally revolutionized how crime involving murder is investigated, processed and determined today.

    This account of

    Frances Glessner Lee appeared to be a "rich woman who didn't have enough to do." What she really was created a widespread industry reaching from "Legal Medicine" , i.e. forensics to homicide investigations, on to the multi million dollar entertainment world of true crime stories, fiction books, movies etc. This wealthy woman held a fascination for unexplained deaths and her journey totally revolutionized how crime involving murder is investigated, processed and determined today.

    This account of her life is fascinating and at times mind boggling as to how this woman literally fought her way to the point where law officers could receive good and thorough educations on how to conduct investigations. It's an amazing story to me. Once again, as seen in history, a woman saw a need and pushed those men who would listen to her toward breakthroughs that changed the world relating to the handling of a crime scene and the intricacy of processing, investigating and bringing justice to the victim.

    Author Bruce Goldfarb, a journalist with a medical background became the Executive Assistant to the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland. Serving as public information officer, Goldfarb also became de facto curator to the amazing seventy year old dioramas created by Lee which was just one of her offerings from a life dedicated to the medical legalities involved with unexplained death. He wrote this book after meticulously researching Lee's life and work. It is excellent.

    Readers who are interested in books, televisions shows and movies about true crime or fictional homicide investigations should find Frances Glessner Lee an amazing woman as I have. Law officers or students of forensics should learn about the woman who studied and financially funded the fight for better education for them to do their jobs in the 1930's on into the 1950's. She gave the world a great gift yet the basically shy woman took very little credit as she wanted the process and education to be the thing in the spotlight, not her part in it.

    This book took me awhile to read, there's a lot to take in. I can't begin to explain what a widespread influence Lee had during her lifetime and afterward. She even became friends with one of the most popular crime authors of the day and a movie starring Ricardo Montalban came to be because of her diligent work with "Legal Medicine". I want to thank the publisher and NetGalley for my advanced copy of the book. It's a fascinating account of an amazing woman.

  • Tedi

    There are always points in biographies or historical nonfiction such as this that I think to myself I do not care.

    That never once happened with this book. I was captivated through every chapter. Frances Glessner Lee had a vision and she pursued it with determination and vigor, relentlessly. While the money she had certainly helped the situation, what this story truly was to me was a story of passion and how finding our passion can transform our lives.

    Also, there was the true crime bit which I

    There are always points in biographies or historical nonfiction such as this that I think to myself “I do not care.”

    That never once happened with this book. I was captivated through every chapter. Frances Glessner Lee had a vision and she pursued it with determination and vigor, relentlessly. While the money she had certainly helped the situation, what this story truly was to me was a story of passion and how finding our passion can transform our lives.

    Also, there was the true crime bit which I loved just as much. Where would forensics be without Frances Glessner Lee? It is truly hard to say because she is so interwoven in its beginnings that the histories of both are inseparable.

    TLDR; I loved this.

  • Dee Arr

    I had never heard of Frances Glessner Lee before reading this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed author Bruce Goldfarbs book. There are many elements contained within its pages. Readers are permitted an intimate look at Ms. Lees ancestors as well as the events of her earlier life (before the main focus of the book, her tireless efforts to advance the field of modern forensics).

    The explanation of the origins of the coroner system was enlightening and one can begin to understand the frustrations Ms.

    I had never heard of Frances Glessner Lee before reading this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed author Bruce Goldfarb’s book. There are many elements contained within its pages. Readers are permitted an intimate look at Ms. Lee’s ancestors as well as the events of her earlier life (before the main focus of the book, her tireless efforts to advance the field of modern forensics).

    The explanation of the origins of the coroner system was enlightening and one can begin to understand the frustrations Ms. Lee dealt with throughout her life as this system is still employed in many states. The impact of Ms. Lee’s efforts cannot be overstated. The classes she started while at Harvard still continue, with her miniature and lifelike dioramas still being employed. Though some of her work has been swallowed and is almost forgotten (such as the Magrath Library, containing over 3000 books), there are countless reminders of exactly what Ms. Lee accomplished.

    It is noted in the book that “18 Tiny Deaths” is the first biography about Frances Glessner Lee. I found it to be a satisfying description of a woman who chose to pioneer a new field, her struggles to bring her dreams to fruition, and the many accomplishments that she was instrumental in bringing about. Recommended to everyone. Five stars.

    My thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for an advance electronic copy of this title.

  • Obsidian

    This one is definitely a good read for those who are True Crime enthusiasts. This starts off a little slow, but I found myself fascinated by the end of the book. Goldfarb follows the true story of Frances Glessner Lee who I am just going to say, is the mother of forensics as we understand it in the United States today.

    Lee was a wealthy heiress with an interest in medicine which of course was discouraged

    This one is definitely a good read for those who are True Crime enthusiasts. This starts off a little slow, but I found myself fascinated by the end of the book. Goldfarb follows the true story of Frances Glessner Lee who I am just going to say, is the mother of forensics as we understand it in the United States today.

    Lee was a wealthy heiress with an interest in medicine which of course was discouraged for a woman living in the time and place that she did (Chicago in the late 1800s). When Lee's father died, she finally was able to take that money and use it to help detectives follow what they should do in order to develop clues to solve murders. I kind of fell in love with the idea of her creating "rooms" in which detectives and others could use to hone their skills. She was pretty much the original creator of "The Escape Room."

    The only reason why I gave this 4 stars and not 5 is that it does take a while to get going and a few of Goldfarb's sections just drifted along. I noticed a lot of repetition in places.

    As someone who loves True Crime, Forensic Files, and other shows, I could not believe I had never heard of Lee before.

  • Diane S ☔

    I first read about this amazing woman in the book, "Savage Delights." She is another vital woman rescued from the obscurity if history. Her father was a self made Irish man who founded the company that was later called, International Harvester. It was the Gilded Age and Frances was aised in Chicago with great privilege. She was only expected to marry well and do the things that wealthy women did back then. This, however, was not enough for Frances, and luckily for those who got away with murder

    I first read about this amazing woman in the book, "Savage Delights." She is another vital woman rescued from the obscurity if history. Her father was a self made Irish man who founded the company that was later called, International Harvester. It was the Gilded Age and Frances was aised in Chicago with great privilege. She was only expected to marry well and do the things that wealthy women did back then. This, however, was not enough for Frances, and luckily for those who got away with murder and those who needs wrongfully convicted, she started classes that trained the police. Police Science taught the art of crime detection and the science that could be used in the solving if crimes.

    Such an interesting book, about s very unusual woman. To aid in her classes she built miniature boxes, that depicted crime scenes. True down to the smallest detail, these are still used today in Boston. The book also goes into the coroner versus medical examiner crisis that many cities were exoeriencing. Coroner's were often untrained, and corrupt. So it was a mix of biography and history. Police detectives and the public owe much to this amazing woman.

  • Lauren Stoolfire

    by Bruce Goldfarb isn't quite what I was expecting, but still an intriguing read. It does take a while to get going and it does go off on quite a few tangents, but it's still intriguing if you're mostly in it for Lee's work. I can definitely say that I'll have to watch the movie

    directed by John Sturges though that's for

    by Bruce Goldfarb isn't quite what I was expecting, but still an intriguing read. It does take a while to get going and it does go off on quite a few tangents, but it's still intriguing if you're mostly in it for Lee's work. I can definitely say that I'll have to watch the movie

    directed by John Sturges though that's for sure since it's connection to true events.

  • Travelling Bookworm

    (I have received this book as an ARC from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

    Death fascinates us as humans: despite its inevitability, we are still shocked, upset, and morbidly curious about it. How? Why? And the unanswerable what next?

    And so, science and law has had to come a long way over centuries to help us understand this inevitable phenomenon, particularly for the unexplained and suspicious cases of death.

    18 Tiny Deaths paints a compelling picture of Frances Glessner Lee: an

    (I have received this book as an ARC from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

    Death fascinates us as humans: despite its inevitability, we are still shocked, upset, and morbidly curious about it. How? Why? And the unanswerable what next?

    And so, science and law has had to come a long way over centuries to help us understand this inevitable phenomenon, particularly for the unexplained and suspicious cases of death.

    18 Tiny Deaths paints a compelling picture of Frances Glessner Lee: an inspiring woman, who has dedicated her whole life and a great part of her (seemingly bottomless) finances to the establishment of a reliable medicolegal system in the USA, despite lacking any formal academic education about medicine or law herself. With her endless efforts in educational, political and social spheres, fighting against corruption and condecension, it is no wonder that she can be considered the mother of forensic science in the USA.

    And more specifically, she is the creator of “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”, a set of dioramas depicting 18 cases of unexplained death scenarios.

    The book is packed with very interesting facts for true crime lovers, explaining the technical terminology where necessary and sharing curious historical tidbits at others. (Did you know exactly how an autopsy is done? So fascinating! So gross!)

    However, the text often gets bogged down with too much information, which makes it difficult to read at times. There are some confusing tangents that seem only partially-related to the subject, and too many names to remember (there is a handy guide for this at the start of the book, though). Nonetheless, it is a wonderful biography of a woman worth learning about.

  • Shaelene (aGirlWithBookss)

    This was one of my most anticipated books for 2020, forensics is something Ive always had a strong interest in. So I was thrilled when I got approved for this arc.

    Frances Lee Glessner was born into a very wealthy family in Chicago and incredibly well educated. She always had a strong fascination with medicine and death.

    This book is supposed to tell us how she got into forensics to become one of the people that helped to establish medical examiners as well as courses at Harvard on the subject.

    This was one of my most anticipated books for 2020, forensics is something I’ve always had a strong interest in. So I was thrilled when I got approved for this arc.

    Frances Lee Glessner was born into a very wealthy family in Chicago and incredibly well educated. She always had a strong fascination with medicine and death.

    This book is supposed to tell us how she got into forensics to become one of the people that helped to establish medical examiners as well as courses at Harvard on the subject. However I never got that far as this novel is DRY AS A BONE.

    I love nonfiction, it makes up the majority of my reading, I’ve read some dry nonfiction in my life. But this was just too dry, and boring.

    We are reminded every few pages about how wealthy Lee and her family are. For at least half of the book, we are following her and her wealthy family and all the eccentric things they got up to. This is all interspersed with tidbits about how the coroner system worked in the states during her time, as well as some notable cases that went unsolved because of shoddy work on part of the coroners. While this was interesting, it's not what I intended to read and I found myself not wanting to pick the book up or read at all.

    So, I DNF’d it at 50%.

    I realized I didn’t enjoy reading this at all and couldn’t force myself to read more.

    2 stars.

    ** ARC provided by Sourcebooks & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  • Petra-X

    This book is shaping itself up to be the worst book of the year so far. Apology - This review is long, negative and probably boring and I can't bring myself to go back and edit it. I had so little interesting material to work with. The format is so you don't have to wade through it like me but can click on anything that interests you, or nothing at all.

    This book is shaping itself up to be the worst book of the year so far. Apology - This review is long, negative and probably boring and I can't bring myself to go back and edit it. I had so little interesting material to work with. The format is so you don't have to wade through it like me but can click on anything that interests you, or nothing at all.

    At last! One chapter past the half way mark, Frances is going to get into forensics. She establishes a department of legal medicine at Harvard and pays the salaries of Dr William Brickley and Dr Timothy Leary (!) as faculty. I almost got going there, got some enthusiasm, but no we have to get back into architecture and how the father had left one of his houses to the American Institute of Architects and how much they wanted from the daughter to remodel it. Yadayadayada That was it, I can stand no more.

    Maybe a better editor could have guided the author, or maybe the author was just the wrong person to write this book. I don't doubt he is very learned and I'm sure his text books have the requisite dryness that restricts them to students of the field, maybe they would enjoy this book too. I didn't. DNF. I can't waste my life like this.

    ________________

    17/2020

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