Died on this day – 11 May

vidocqEugène François Vidocq was born on 24 July 1775.  He was a French criminal and criminalist whose life story inspired several writers, including Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac.  The former criminal became the founder and first director of the crime-detection Sureté Nationale as well as the head of the first known private detective agency.  Vidocq is considered to be the father of modern criminology and of the French police department. He is also regarded as the first private detective.Vidocq is considered by historians as the “father” of modern criminology.

Vidocq’s approaches were new and unique for that time. He is credited with the introduction of undercover work, ballistics, criminology and a record keeping system to criminal investigations. He made the first plaster cast impressions of shoe prints. He created indelible ink and unalterable bond paper with his printing company. He was the inspiration of Emile Gaboriau for Monsieur Lecoq, one of the first scientific and methodical investigators who played the lead role in many adventures, who in turn was a major influence for the creation of Sherlock Holmes. It is also believed that Edgar Allan Poe was prompted by a story about Vidocq to create the first detective in fiction, C. Auguste Dupin who appeared, for example, in the short story The Murders in the Rue Morgue, which is considered the first detective story.

Until the age of 34 Vidocq lived a criminal existence but then became a spy and informer during one of his many sojourns in goal.  It was in 1813 that he formed a plainclothes group that became the Sureté Nationale.  In 1827 he resigned and, with the aid of a ghost-writer, wrote his autobiography Memoirs of Vidocq.  In 1833 he founded Le bureau des renseignements – a mixture of detective agency and private police.  Aged 82 he visited Montmorillon to advise on a particularly grisly murder in the Cité de l’ecrit.  He died in Montmorillon on 11 May 1857.

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