The First Use of a Composite Image in Forensic Facial Superimposition: The Case of John Paul Jones, 1907

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The United States' Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones (1747-1792) died of natural causes in Paris during the French Revolution and was buried pending repatriation to the United States. An agreement to return his body was not negotiated and the location of his unmarked grave was forgotten. His coffin was located in 1905 and the remains were positively identified with the aid of a portrait bust sculpted by French artist Jean Antoine Houdon. The official reports of the identification were published in 1907 and include a composite photographic superimposition of the Houdon bust and the remains of John Paul Jones. Contrary to the published literature that identifies the 1935 Ruxton case as the first forensic use of composite photographic superimposition, the published report of the John Paul Jones case was the first publication of such an image. This article details the circumstance of the superimposition and compares it to other historically noteworthy cases.

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