Milestones in the History of Graphology

Outdating fingerprinting by many centuries, handwriting analysis (or graphology) has become one of the most respected tools that modern day criminal investigators have at their disposal. And though many people are somewhat familiar with the concept of a handwriting expert, few know anything about the history of graphology. Here are a few of the most important milestones and pioneers in this engaging and important field.

500BC Legendary Chinese philosopher Confucius warned in one of his writing to “Beware of a man whose writing sways like a reed in the wind”. This established the idea that there is a correlation between one’s handwriting and certain character traits.

1622: Camillo Baldi, an Italian doctor, first wrote down his theories on using handwriting as a tool to determine a person’s character. He did so in what would become the first book on handwriting analysis titled “How to recognize from a letter the nature and quality of a writer”.

19th Century France: Formal courses in the subject of graphology begin being taught in France as well as in Israel, North and South America, India and China.

1875: French abbot Jean Hyppolyte Michon coins the term “graphology.”        

1890’s: German philosopher and graphologist, Dr. Ludwig Klages, applies gestalt theory to graphology. In the 1930’s Klages, who is regarded by many to be the father of modern graphology, publishes “Handwriting and Character.”

1938: Dr. Eric Singer opens a graphology practice where he uses handwriting analysis to help companies with recruiting and couples determine their compatibility with each other.

Late 1940s: Francis Timberly Hilliger, becomes one of the first graphologist to be recognized as an expert witness in the British Courts of Justice. In 1965 Hilliger, establishes ‘Handwriting Analysis Ltd’.

Through their research these pioneers have been able to determine that handwriting analyses can help identify:

  • Methodology of the Person’s Thinking
  • Type of Intelligence the writer retains
  • Certain Types of Physiology
  • Mental and Physical Health of the Writer
  • Sexuality and Sexual Attitude of the Writer

Today, the field of graphology continues to evolve and benefit from technologies they were not available to the pioneers listed above. It has grown into a highly respected field and is recognized in most courts as an invaluable forensic tool on par with fingerprinting. Today, there are thousands of books published on the subject and as many courses taught worldwide on graphology. At Forensic Document Investigations our handwriting expert Dianne Peterson utilizes the latest technology and her expertise in providing a detailed analysis of documents, signatures, etc.

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Famous Criminal Cases Involving Forensic Handwriting Analyses

As any prosecutor, or defense attorney for that matter, can tell you that there are many moving parts to every criminal case. There are many kinds of evidence to be examined and many experts called upon to lend their expertise. The use of a forensic handwriting expert is one of the most important components to many legal proceedings these days. In fact, a forensic handwriting analysis has often been used in order to “turn the table” in criminal cases. Here are some examples of criminal cases where this has been the case.

  • Kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh, Jr: This case stands as one of the most shocking and brutal crimes of the 20th On March 1, 1932 someone placed a crude, homemade ladder under a window at aviator Charles Lindbergh’s home, made his way to where his infant slept and kidnapped the child. Later, a letter was found demanding a ransom of $50,000 dollars. (This in today’s money would be a small fortune.) Tragically, the baby was killed and a suspect named Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested and charged with the kidnapping and murder. A positive analysis by handwriting experts of Hauptmann’s signature sealed the German-born carpenter’s fate. (A comparison of wood found in Hauptmann’s garage with the wood from the ladder found at the Lindbergh home also damned Hauptmann.) Hauptmann was electrocuted on April 3, 1936.
  • BTK Killer: Dennis Rader terrorized the Wichita Kansas area from 1974 to 1991 by binding, torturing and killing (hence “BTK”) at least 10 victims in that period. A forensic handwriting analysis of letters he sent taunting the police to find him is what ultimately led to Rader’s arrest.
  • Robert Durst: Ever since the murder of Susan Berman, Robert Durst was a prime suspect in the case. A handwriting analysis of letters Durst had sent to Berman in 1999 ultimately lead to his conviction.
  • The Murder of JonBenet Ramsey: On December 26, 1996 six year-old JonBenet Ramsey was found brutally murdered in the basement of her parent’s home. Although the killer has not been found to this day, one of the first steps taken in the case was to compare her parents’ handwriting to that of a note left at the scene.

Yes, forensic handwriting analyses continue to be a fundamental tool for prosecutors and defense attorneys in strengthening their cases. This is especially true where handwritten documents are involved. Dianne Peterson can lend her expertise in analyzing handwritten information in order to reveal the authenticity of documents, signatures on those documents, etc.forensic