What is forensic science? Definition and examples

Forensic science is the application of science to determine why something happened. Usually, the investigators are trying to find out why something bad or unpleasant occurred. For example, if a bridge collapsed or somebody died, forensic experts come in to determine what happened. In many cases, forensic science also involves using the evidence that the investigators had gathered in a court of law.

Put simply; forensic science refers to using science to determine the cause of somebody’s death, a defect, or an undesirable event. We call the relevant information that the investigators collect ‘forensic evidence.’

The term ‘forensic‘ refers to the application of scientific or technical knowledge to solve a mystery. Specifically, why something went wrong. It also includes determining whether somebody committed a crime.

The Open University has the following definition of the term:

“Forensic science, or forensics, is the application of science to establish how historical events occurred and thereby provide impartial evidence that can be used in a court of law.”



The Open University is a British public distance learning and research university.

When there has been a crime, some forensic scientists go to the scene of the crime. They gather as much evidence as they can and bring it back to the lab.

Many forensic scientists, on the other hand, remain in the lab all the time. They analyze objects that their colleagues bring from the crime scenes.

Forensic Science
Thanks to modern forensic science, prosecutors today have more compelling evidence than before.

Etymology of forensic

Etymology is the study of the origin of words and how their meanings have evolved.

Etymonline.com says that the term ‘forensic’ first appeared in the English language in the 1650s. It meant, at the time ‘pertaining to or suitable for courts of law.’

The English term comes from the Latin word Forensis, which meant ‘a forum, place of assembly.’

Forums, in Roman times, were busy places where civic meetings took place. In those meetings, people frequently debated criminal matters.



When a crime occurred, the accuser and defendant would go the forum and present their arguments.

Today, we use the word ‘forensic’ when talking about evidence that people present in a court of law.

However, it was not until 1845 that the English word acquired the meaning ‘pertaining to legal trials.’

Forensic science – types

There are dozens of types of forensic sciences. Digital, botanical, art, and accounting forensics, for example, are subdivisions of forensic science.

Forensic pathologists are experts in forensic medicine. They are the detectives of the medical world. Forensic accountants are their counterparts in the financial world.

If a building collapses or a machine injures somebody, forensic engineers try to find out what went wrong.

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences says the following regarding forensic science and choosing a career in this field:



“The forensic sciences are used around the world to resolve civil disputes, to justly enforce criminal laws and government regulations, and to protect public health.”

“Forensic science is a rewarding career where the love of science can be applied to the good of society, public health, and public safety.”

Video – Forensic science

This Sci Show video talks about the role of forensic science in solving criminal cases. What happens on TV is different to what happns in real life.