The Belated Autopsy and Identification of an Eighteenth Century Naval Hero—The Saga of John Paul Jones

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John Paul Jones, the “Father of the American Navy,” is known for the battletime assertion that he had “not yet begun to fight.” His central role in a triumph of scientific forensic identification more than a century after his death is less known. John Paul Jones died in 1792 and was buried in Paris, France. The location of his grave was lost over time and a search for his corpse began in 1899. Remains matching his physical characteristics and circumstance of burial were discovered in 1905 and returned to the United States for a hero's burial. Some questioned the identification at the time and the major source of identifying information (17) has since been shown to contain false information. The published forensic literature fails to address existing critiques of the identification. We provide a substantive analysis and conclude that the available evidence supports the identification of the unknown remains as those of John Paul Jones.



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