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

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By Bruce Goldfarb, Judy Melinek (Introduction by)
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Staff Reviews

I first became interested in Frances Glessner Lee when I read an article about the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death several years back. The Nutshells are a set of dioramas Lee built in the 1940s to help train medical examiners on how to approach a crime scene involving a death. At the time they were built, there wasn't much education available in the U.S. on how to determine how a person died, how long they had been dead, and whether it was by accident or by murder. Lee believed these were important questions that needed to be answered in a scientific manner in order to prevent the innocent from being wrongly convicted and ensure the guilty went to jail. Using her wealth and influence, she tried to create a Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard and, through her efforts, she helped spread the teaching of modern forensics. Lee’s Nutshell Studies are still used today. This is a fascinating read.

— Amanda


A captivating blend of history, women in science, and true crime, 18 Tiny Deaths tells the story of how one woman changed the face of forensics forever.

Frances Glessner Lee, born a socialite to a wealthy and influential Chicago family in the 1870s, was never meant to have a career, let alone one steeped in death and depravity.

Yet she developed a fascination with the investigation of violent crimes, and made it her life's work. Best known for creating the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, a series of dollhouses that appear charming--until you notice the macabre little details: an overturned chair, or a blood-spattered comforter. And then, of course, there are the bodies--splayed out on the floor, draped over chairs--clothed in garments that Lee lovingly knit with sewing pins.

18 Tiny Deaths, by official biographer Bruce Goldfarb, delves into Lee's journey from grandmother without a college degree to leading the scientific investigation of unexpected death out of the dark confines of centuries-old techniques and into the light of the modern day.

Lee developed a system that used the Nutshells dioramas to train law enforcement officers to investigate violent crimes, and her methods are still used today.

The story of a woman whose ambition and accomplishments far exceeded the expectations of her time, 18 Tiny Deaths follows the transformation of a young, wealthy socialite into the mother of modern forensics...

"Eye-opening biography of Frances Glessner Lee, who brought American medical forensics into the scientific age...genuinely compelling."--Kirkus Reviews

"A captivating portrait of a feminist hero and forensic pioneer." --Booklist

Product Details
ISBN: 9781492680475
ISBN-10: 1492680478
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication Date: February 4th, 2020
Pages: 368
Language: English