Repeating Fashions: Looking for a Killer in the Eyes of Another

In the late 1800s, the time of Jack the Ripper, some of the early procedures that would become known as forensic science included inspection of a victim’s eyes for evidence. It was believed that eyes could capture the image of a killer, that the last thing that a victim would have seen would be retained on the retina like a final photograph trapped within the eye. There are reports that the police did photograph the eyes of victims in the hopes of finding such evidence. This method, called octography, became well-known because of its use in trying to identify Jack the Ripper. This belief was so widely held at the time that killers would destroy the eyes of their victims (Encyclopedia of Octography, Derek Ogbourne, 2008, p40).

History often repeats. Once again, the eyes are being looked to as a source of forensic information. Although it turned out that the image of a killer isn’t left on the retina of a victim, it appears that there is now technology that can now allow us to resolve the image of a person reflected in the eyes of another within photographs. This technology is now allowing the police to peer indirectly into the eyes of victims to identify the photographer, and even witnesses, to identify criminals by examining high resolution images of the reflections on the eyes. 

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